Animal Assisted Therapy
The Oxford English Dictionary defines animal-assisted therapy as:
‘The use of trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals with patients.’
According to a research study by Michele Morrison MS, RN, ANP, HNP, CHHC, Animal-Assisted interventions have proven historically to be beneficial to the overall health of humans.
In her study, Morrison created a very interesting historical timeline. It shows a broad history of the use of animals in medical and mental health treatment from as early as the ninth century.
Animals have been used in a variety of treatment settings and research shows that using them has been highly beneficial.
Dogs, specifically, can be used in a variety of ways in therapy sessions.
- Dogs can help alleviate anxiety by helping clients calm their nervous systems through petting them.
- Dogs can aid as a grounding tool for clients who struggle with PTSD.
- Dogs can be a comfort to kids in therapy to foster a safe and trusting environment.
- And dogs can provide emotional comfort for those dealing with grief and loss or depression.
There are a multitude of ways dogs can participate in therapy and so many ways in which they enrich the experience for the client.
Laura Stuart utilizes Animal-assisted therapy in conjunction with other modalities. Having a therapy dog is especially helpful for trauma cases. During EMDR sessions focused on trauma, the therapy dog is used as a grounding tool and has proven to be highly effective.