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Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy

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Published by Anca Oana
The effect of animal assisted therapy in counselling.
The effect of animal assisted therapy in counselling.

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Published by: Anca Oana on Jan 24, 2013
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Despite over 30 years of history in the U.S., AAT-C is still considered a new frontier
in promoting client welfare, growth, and development. Few universities in the U.S.
todate offer training for counselors in AAT even though child psychologist Boris
Levinson empirically demonstrated in the early 1960s that pets help to form a strong
connection between client and therapist. Pet practitioners can be especially helpful

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when working with populations who might be discouraged, unmotivated, resistant,
or defiant or who have poor self-insight, deficits in social skills, or barriers to devel-
oping relationships. The pets involved with AAT-C can enhance the motivation,
encouragement, inspiration, and insight properties of therapy. Those professionals
who choose to explore the new frontier of AAT-C may face resistance and criticism
from their peers. Levinson was ridiculed and laughed at when he first presented his
findings at the American Psychological Association conference in 1961 (Levinson,
1997). Unfortunately, this type of collegial rejection regarding the consideration of
nontraditional treatment modalities does occur. A nontraditional modality typically
refers to a relatively new intervention focus as compared with more established
therapeutic modalities with a long history of research and application. While it is
important to examine, assess, and otherwise thoroughly scrutinize any new type
oftherapy, we must not utilize the need for rigorous scrutiny as a justification for
premature dismissal of a potentially beneficial treatment approach. The potential
benefits to engaging in responsible practice and research of AAT-C would seem
tomake up for the potential obstacles that this engagement presents. Those who
dobecome involved in AAT-C will be included among other pioneers who lay the
foundation for a therapy that continues to grow in popularity. And it is important to
consider the truly wonderful benefit that it is a lot of fun to take your pet to work.
The purpose of this book is to help further the interest of AAT in the counsel-
ing field. It is primarily designed for beginners in AAT. It has drawn from a number
of worthwhile resources in an effort to consolidate information into one succinct and
valuable guide. In previous years, I had to pull information from a number of different
places, including my own experience and training, in order to provide students with
the knowledge they needed to practice AAT-C. Having placed that information in
one source will now make it much more convenient to teach these important train-
ing concepts. Wherever possible, I have incorporated real life stories into the book
chapters to enhance the subject matter. Some of these stories were shared with me
by colleagues, and many are from my own experience working in the field. The book
begins by introducing the subject of AAT and reviewing some recent research
regarding AAT-C and related areas in Chapters 1 and 2. The book then takes the
reader through the steps of partnering with a pet with the selection of a therapy
animal in Chapter 3, the animal’s training to be a pet practitioner in Chapter 4, and
the animal’s evaluation and certification process in Chapter 5. Proper risk manage-
ment procedures to be considered when working with a therapy animal are covered
in Chapter 6 along with an examination of ethical concerns related to AAT-C prac-
tice. Chapter 7 describes several AAT techniques that can be applied to facilitate the
recovery of a client in counseling. Chapter 8 addresses how to be culturally sensitive
in the application of AAT-C and describes some specific ideas to address the special
needs of certain populations. Chapter 9 describes the complex topic of animal
assisted crisis response counseling and how to become a recognized crisis response
counseling team with your therapy pet. Chapters 1 through 9 were designed to fulfill
the educational needs of my enthusiastic students whom I have the privilege to train
to be AAT counselors. Chapters 10 and 11 were specifically added at the request of
my colleagues who wanted to know how to set up AAT-C programs in elementary
and secondary schools and how to design a university AAT counselor education pro-
gram to train counselors to practice AAT-C. And finally, Chapter 12 describes an
AAT cultural exchange experience I had in South Korea. This chapter exemplifies
international differences in the practice of AAT as well as reinforcing the value of

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sharing learning opportunities and exchanging valuable information with our col-
leagues all over the world.

I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Ifthe book fails to meet your needs or expectations, then I would be happy to hear
from you and I will endeavor to include that information in a possible future edition,
depending very much of course on how well this edition sells. If you are satisfied
with aspects of the book, then I would also very much like to hear what you liked
about it so I may retain and reinforce that information for the future. In any case,
ifyou are reading this book, you must have an interest in AAT and that makes us col-
leagues who share a mutual interest in a highly valuable profession, and for this
Isalute you. And, thank you very much for reading my book. Here’s wishing
youand your pet “Happy Tails!” By the way, you can reach me at the University of
North Texas Counseling Program in the College of Education; my e-mail address is

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Chapter 2

Research in Animal
Assisted Counseling

Psychophysiological Health


Anxiety and Distress








Self-Esteem Enhancement


Children in Pediatric Hospitals


Children with Developmental Disorders


Children and Adolescents with Emotional and Behavioral Problems


The Elderly and Nursing Home Residents


Physically Disabled Persons


Psychiatric Patients




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“It’s funny how dogs and cats know the inside of folks better than other folks
do, isn’t it?”

— Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna

With any relatively new up and coming treatment focus, it is important to establish a
base of research to validate the value of the therapy. Although many more experi-
mentally based clinical trials in AAT in a counseling setting are required, we shall
examine in this chapter some existing research in AAT in mental health or related
fields as a baseline for future research endeavors. The research described in this
chapter is not meant to be all-inclusive but rather to review important AAT-C-related
literature from recent years. For a more comprehensive and historical examination
of AAT research, I refer you to Fine (2000a) and to Hooker et al. (2002).

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