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.

animal assisted therapy