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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Having loved and lived with animals most of my life, I know the therapeutic benevolence animals offer is unparalleled. Research studies have shown the efficacy of human-animal interactions and the therapeutic benefits they provide for their owners and clients. As I have specialized in canine and equine-assisted psychotherapies, I highly encourage clients to interact with animals personally or in a more structured, therapeutically beneficial manner.

— Jen Strickland, M.A., Counselor in Charlotte, NC

I utilize Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Interventions. During COVID-19, since I am seeing clients entirely through telehealth, I welcome your pets into session to help you cope. I also use many metaphors involving the animal world to help you see different perspectives. When it is again safe to return to in-person sessions, my animals (golden retriever and kenyan sandboas) look forward to greeting you.

— BRIANA MESSERSCHMIDT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Alamitos, CA

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

Alongside my Chihuahua puppy Cancun Veas, I am able to harness the therapeutic powers of the human-animal interaction to assist in a comfortable and safe environment as you pursue your mental health goals. I also provide Emotional Support Animal or ESA letters for clients who are in need of assistance to address mental health issues with companionship and support.

— Gabe Veas, Addictions Counselor in Palm Springs, CA

I have completed levels 1 and 2 training from the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy and received supervision in AAPT. My therapy dog, Rogue, is registered with Pet Partners and she is an eager and active co-facilitator of therapy sessions.

— Rachel Narrow, Clinical Social Worker in Chevy Chase, MD

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

I am trained in animal assisted therapy. Our office does have a feline co-therapist, who is available upon request.

— Amanda Trost, Licensed Professional Counselor in Sugar Land, TX

I have been using ferrets and parrots in pet therapy since 2014 and in animal-assisted therapy since 2018. For those who are allergic to dogs, but find animals to have a therapeutic presence I have found both ferrets and parrots to be a great alternative.

— Alex Byrne, Licensed Master of Social Work in Owings Mills, MD

I have my certification in animal assisted therapy. I have a therapy dog with me every day to assist clients in feeling more comfortable in sessions. AAT is proven to be effective in reducing symptoms and improving the therapeutic relationship.

— Haleigh Yurecko, Mental Health Counselor in Hillsboro, OR

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

My passion is Animal-Assisted Therapy. In the past, I have been a horseback riding instructor, Emotional Support Animal Consultant, and currently, I utilize dogs to provide an enthusiastic partner in our therapy session. My Bachelor's degree in Animal Science provides a basis of animal understanding that I utilize in my therapeutic practice to help clients understand how animals can be beneficial in our understanding of ourselves.

— Courtney Spaulding, Mental Health Practitioner in Waitsfield, VT

Krista is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Eliot is our therapy dog in training. Born on May 6, 2022 at Carolina Goldens, Eliot is an English Cream Golden Retriever who comes from a long line of therapy dogs.

— Krista Martin, Clinical Social Worker in Greenville, SC

Spending time with a therapy dog can produce a number of mental health benefits, from enhanced relaxation to reduced stress and anxiety. Therapy dogs are carefully selected dogs that undergo intense, individualized training. Research has shown that spending just 12 minutes with a therapy dog can lower anxiety by 24% and reduce levels of the stress hormone epinephrine by 17%. I have personally experienced the benefits a therapy dog can provide. As a result, I chose to certify my mixed breed dog.

— Lani Chin, Clinical Psychologist in Monterey, CA

When utilizing in-person therapy, I work closely with my therapy dog, Koda, to help individuals feel safe and connected during the therapy process. Animal assisted therapy can also be extremely helpful in helping a person stay grounded when going through emotionally charged topics that are often brought up in the therapy session.

— Betsy Jones, Licensed Professional Counselor in Irving, TX