Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an experiential treatment method that involves clients interacting with animals, which could include dogs, horses, cats, or birds, among others. AAT has been used to treat issues including ADD, abuse, depression, anxiety, drug abuse, eating disorders, and more. AAT can take different forms. Depending on the animal, in animal assisted therapy, a client might keep a dog, cat, or other pet at home for emotional support. If you are staying in a residential treatment facility, such as a hospital or a rehab center, a trained therapy animal might visit you. Or, during a session, a client may groom, feed or walk the horse while the therapist observes the clients' reactions to the horse's behavior (known as equine assisted therapy). Therapists that utilize AAT often believe that animals provide comfort and calm as well as instant and accurate feedback of a client's thoughts and feelings, which can help both the therapist and client become more aware of these emotions. Animals are nonjudgmental, which can help clients connect with another living being that accepts them – making it easier to learn to trust, and easing the path into having trusting relationships with other people. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s AAT specialists today.

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I offer Animal Assisted Play Therapy to children to help with a variety of issues, including low self esteem, depression, anxiety, attention and learning difficulties, and poor social skills, to name a few. It primarily focuses on the child's strengths while also addressing his or her life challenges. While all of my therapy during the Covid-19 crisis is provided online, this particular form of therapy needs to be done in the office. I will resume offering it once it is safe to do so.

— Lisabeth Wotherspoon, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Rochester, NH

Krista is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Wyatt works with Krista in providing Animal Assisted Therapy. A Lab/Doberman mix rescued from the Greenville Humane Society, Wyatt enjoys helping others, volunteering in the community, time spent with his family, naps, and TREATS!

— Krista Martin, Clinical Social Worker in Greeenville, SC

When doing therapy, I often relate back to animals and how they function in their own world. Do animals have anxiety and to what extent do they have anxiety? Why is anxiety chronic in humans but not in wild animals? When it comes down to it, humans are animals and if we look at animals behavior, we can often help explain our own behavior and get back to our natural instincts.

— Chase Tucker, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lakewood, CO

For several years, I have worked with clients/patients using Animal Assisted Therapy as an adjunct to the therapeutic process.

— Dr. Vicki D. Coleman, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Las Vegas, NV

My therapy dog, Lilly, LOVES her job. A sweet and gentle Cavanese, Lilly greets patients with great enthusiasm, enjoys giving kisses, and knows when it's time to offer comfort or lay quietly in her bed. She is hypoallergenic and weighs about 18 pounds. She sometimes snores loudly during sessions, but more often wants to sit next to patients as a warm and comforting presence during therapy.

— Lauren Bartholomew, Psychologist in King of Prussia, PA

AAT can provide benefits to anyone, whether you're living with anxiety, depression, trauma-related concerns, or attachment. With the help of my trained professional therapy canine, I facilitate relationship-building, teamwork, confidence, self-awareness, mindfulness, and playfulness. Who doesn't love having a furry friend to comfort and support you? My dog and I have been a therapy team for one year and he loves it. Please ask me questions about this!

— Mackenzie Howshar, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Fort Collins, CO

Animals are a big part of my life and I believe our relationships with animals can mirror our relationships with people creating rich content to explore in therapy. While I’m currently only practicing virtually, I’ll be incorporating some in person AAT sessions in 2022.

— Melissa Trevathan-Minnis, Psychologist in ,

Animal therapists can team up with human clinicians to maximize the effectiveness of therapy. I utilize animal assisted therapy with clients who are comfortable with it on a regular basis as both an anxiety reduction technique and an engaging way to help clients relax and connect. Animal assisted therapy is not a required part of sessions, but is always offered.

— Taylor Spoltore, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Greenville, SC

Wiggles and Wags will brighten your day. Animals and our relationships with them can, and do, hold special places in our lives and memories. Animals are our playmates, confidants, friends, and family members – they offer comfort, companionships, entertainment, and unconditional love. We currently have seven dogs that are training or are certified in Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ with the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy.

— Tara Moser, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Cape Coral, FL

I utilize a certified facility dog from Canine Companions for Independence. You can learn more about him by visiting my website

— Dr. Nancie Spector, Clinical Psychologist in NEW CANAAN, CT

My certified therapy dog, Cascade, and I partner for many sessions. Studies have shown that interacting with a familiar animal can lower stress levels, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, and increase oxytocin. I harness this power by including Cascade in sessions to help clients regulate, practice mindfulness and frustration tolerance, and build family skills.

— Mandy Dorsett, Therapist in Thornton, CO

Sometimes we need a little extra comfort during a therapy session and Bernie is just the helper you need. Bernie is a Dogue De Bordeaux (French Mastiff) and is a gentle giant who will comfort you when you need it or sleep (sometimes snoring) in his bed when he's not. Bernie is dually trained as my personal Allergen Alert Service Dog and as your Therapy Dog (while he is in the office helping clients).

— Jennifer Burton, Counselor in Maitland, FL

Meet my rescue Gracie! She takes her job very seriously and enjoys meeting and greeting new clients!

— Marci Orr, Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, TX

For the past 9 years I have incorporated pet therapy in my practice with the help of my yellow lab, Jolie. Pet therapy has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport and help clients become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions. Jolie is certified as a Canine Good Citizen. She is calm, kind and very loving but if you are allergic or prefer for her to not be part of your session we can discuss those options.

— Gloria Hatfield, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

My therapy dog, Emma, CGC, is a yellow labrador retriever mixed with a golden retriever. She was born in December of 2013. Her training began at eight weeks of age. It was evident from her first training session that Emma was bound to succeed as a Therapy Dog. She quickly earned her Canine Good Citizenship Award through the American Kennel Club.

— Beth Kennedy (Perspectives Therapy Services), Clinical Social Worker in Brighton, MI