Animal Assisted Therapy

Jan 1, 2021 | Caregiver Resources | 0 comments

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It has been observed that interacting with animals can reduce stress and anxiety, increase certain brain chemicals associated with healthy behavior and function, reduce depression in older adults and have a significant improvement on behavior in children .  The bond created between humans and animals has been used for several decades as a therapeutic strategy to help many different issues.

Animal Assisted Therapy

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

The definition of animal assisted therapy is in the name! Animals can be used as a great therapy tool to help promote the psychological, interactive, emotional, and physical well-being of an individual.

When used alongside traditional therapy interventions, animal assisted therapy can help a person reach their therapy goals.

Who Benefits from Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal assisted therapy can be used for people with or without disabilities. There are several different types of animal assisted therapy.  Depending on each person’s individual needs, their therapy would vary. 

Animal assisted therapy could be a great addition to therapy for anyone with the following: behavioral disorders, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

Difference Between Service Animal and Therapy Animal

It is important to note that there is a very big difference between therapy animals and service animals.  Therapy animals are trained for social tasks.  Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for their owner. They both are not protected under the same laws, service animals can go in restricted areas that therapy animals cannot.

Many places such as nursing homes, and hospitals use therapy animals to help their patients with their social and emotional healing.

Equine Therapy

Another common use of animal assisted therapy is using horses.  Horses are able to serve two main purposes.  The first, hippotherapy, uses the natural movement of the horse to help build core strength, improve the neurological function, sensory processing and overall physical function of the rider.

The second way horses are used is through horseback riding.  This differs from the hippotherapy because the focus is shifted from the movement of the horse to the bond of the rider and the horse.  The rider is taught specific horseback riding skills and technique and is encouraged to form a bond with their horse.

Other Animal Assisted Therapy

Each person is unique and has different preferences. Some people might not bond or feel a connection with a dog but not a horse.  There are other animals that are more commonly used as assisted therapy animals.

This list is not comprehensive by any means.  The individual and their family will need to decide what is best for them.  Here are some other examples of animal assisted therapy: cats, llamas, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, mini pigs, and birds.

Where to go for Animal Assisted Therapy?

Depending on where you live, there may or may not be an animal assisted therapy option available for you or your child.  Talk to your child’s therapists, see if they think animal assisted therapy would be a good addition for your child’s therapy.

If you are fortunate enough to have a facility close to you, take advantage of the opportunity to assist your therapy journey in a deeper way.

Safe in Austin

A great example of a facility where they use animals to assist in healing is called Safe in Austin.  An animal sanctuary that helps facilitate both humans and animals.  Several of their animals have disabilities and have been able to connect with children and adults of similar needs.

They have cows, chickens, dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, tortoises, turkeys, a parrot, and pigs.  The disabilities of the animals include, deaf, blind, diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, limb difference, and paralysis.  In fact, they have several different animals that require the assistance of a wheelchair to get around.


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