What is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)?

Animal assisted therapy patient with cat

While the most common remedies for illness, diseases or conditions tend to be prescribed medications, our four-legged friends can also be of help. But, how exactly is does this work? Animal-assisted therapy uses the aid of animals to improve emotional, physical or mental wellbeing.

Some therapists will use this as their primary form of treatment with patients and it has worked wonders.

People suffering from the likes of anxiety, depression, PTSD and even mood disorders have all seen benefits associated with AAT. With the simple touch of animal companionship, comfort and unconditional love, people are on a healthy road of recovery!

Mental illness can affect all types of people in many different ways. However, pet therapy can also help those suffering from a mental illness secondary to their situation.

How an Emotional Support Animal Helps

The health benefits of owning a pet are inarguable. You can ask almost anyone about their pet and their face will immediately brighten up.

Often providing a sub-conscious level of comfort, companionship, and security, and to those suffering from mental illness, an emotional support animal can be a massive factor in their recovery!

ESAs are a silver-lining for many mental illness sufferers, that’s why Therapetic powered by CertaPet is dedicated to providing all the in and outs to this therapy. Take the free, 5-minute pre-screening to see if you qualify.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

Therapy animals and emotional support animals can both provide a world of good to those in need. Therapy animals are typically offered by those therapist who specialize in this kind of treatment. On the other hand, anyone can have an emotional support animal of their own, with the help of an LMHPS.

An emotional support animal can be any type of animal, as long as it provides a sense of comfort and support to their owner. This is true for most pets! The difference is when you make your pet an official ESA there are some awesome benefits! These include some housing benefits, air-travel benefits, and even some university benefits!

What is an Animal Assisted Therapist?

An animal-assisted therapist is a professional in either the mental or physical health field who uses direct animal therapy as part of their treatment plans for patients.

These therapists are trained to carefully integrate animals into their sessions with clients. The animals help put clients at ease, provide physical contact and affection and often give a good incentive for patients to turn up!

Animal-Assisted Therapy Certification

Not just anyone can work as an animal-assisted therapist! There are various qualifications that can allow you to practice as an AAT. Some are awarded from animal behavioral schools, others are animal and human health-based and some require a set amount of practical work. But the key point here is any given AAT will have some sort of working qualification you can trust!

History of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal therapy dates back to the middle ages! In Belgium, pets and people were rehabilitated together where pets provided emotional therapy for the people. From there, benefits were seen in the recovering patients and animal therapy began to grow rapidly!

The Many Types of Animals Who Help Therapeutically

When you hear of pet therapy most people immediately think of dogs and cats, but that's not all there is! All sorts of animals can be used for therapy, from ponies to pigs to puppies, there are very few boundaries! Although we don't discredit other animals as ESAs, our LMHPS only write emotional support animal letters for dogs and cats.

Equine therapy patient

5 Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy for People Struggling Every Day

  1. People suffering from depression typically struggle to find something to smile about in their day. But who can hold back a smile when they are getting cuddles from a puppy or pats for a pony!

  2. The comfort provided by the presence of animals can even lower blood pressure! This reflects the decreased stress in patients which may find therapy lessons to be out of their comfort zone.

  3. The flow on effect of reducing blood pressure in stress-prone patients is cardiac health! By lowering blood pressure we see decreased risks of heart attacks and related heart problems.

  4. By reducing the general stress in a patient, even if its just for a short period, can help the body produce specific neurotransmitters and hormones. These help in emotional and physical stability, as well as overall health!

  5. Its a non-medical therapy! I know this may seem silly to bring up, but its actually an important factor of this type of therapy. Many people develop anxiety at the site of needles or a hospital setting, so the fact that these animals can come to universities and even homes is essential!

Positive Effects: Animal-Assisted Therapy Research

The positive effects of animal assisted therapy are endless! The health improvements alone are enough to warrant their worth. With lower stress levels seen in those patients seeing therapy pets, there are associated lower blood pressure and improved heart health.

This lowers risk of heart disease, heart attack, strokes and of course emotional wellness. As well as the health benefits, there's also the increased cooperative nature seen in the patients too. This helps therapists in their treatment plans and increases the overall efficacy of treatment.

3 Conditions Animal-Assisted Therapy Can Help People with!

  1. Emotional illness- this includes chronic depression, anger issues, and PTSD disorders. The list goes on, but regardless of the specific illness, therapy animals have been seen to have benefits across the boards.

  2. Medical Conditions- Those with cancer, or prolonged medical conditions causing their stay in hospital beds longer for far longer than anticipated! Animals here help with avoiding hospital-induced mental instability.

  3. Behavioral conditions- this includes those individuals suffering from ADHD, conduct disorders or anger management. By having an animal companion, these behavioral issues are often diffused.

Best Therapy Dogs for People with PTSD and Mental Illness

Therapy dog with patient

When fighting something as fierce as mental illness, the biggest factor in recovery can be finding the right companion.

What better companion than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, once nicknamed the ‘love sponge’! Known for its ever so cuddly nature these pooches have a lot of love to give. With their relentless affection, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be life-changing to people suffering from PTSD and alike mental illnesses.

Not far behind this breed for their love and affection is the Labrador, the Golden Retriever, and poodles too.

3 Facts You Need to Know About Pet Therapy

  1. It's good for not just our minds but our bodies too!

  2. They can help teach children values and respect for animals.

  3. This type of therapy can keep you calm and hence keep you much safer.

Think Animal Therapy is For You? Talk to a LMHP Today

Animal-assisted therapy is all about improving one's life. Today, research has shown that incorporating animals as part of our therapy can have a positive effect on our well-being. So, if you’re not sure about whether or not an animal-assisted therapy will benefit you, then make sure you talk to your therapist.