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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
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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  • The Human–Animal Connection
  • Risks Involved with AAT
  • Historical Highlights of AAT
  • AAT-C: A New Frontier Therapy
  • Psychophysiological Health
  • Anxiety and Distress
  • Self-Esteem Enhancement
  • Children in Pediatric Hospitals
  • Children with Developmental Disorders
  • The Elderly and Nursing Home Residents
  • Physically Disabled Persons
  • Psychiatric Patients
  • Conclusions
  • Selecting an Animal for Therapy Work
  • Therapy Dogs
  • Selecting a Puppy for Therapy Work
  • Therapy Cats
  • Therapy Horses
  • Small Therapy Animals
  • Therapy Farm Animals
  • Training a Pet for Therapy Work
  • Socialization
  • Touch Desensitization
  • Obedience Training
  • Teaching Special Skills and Trick Training
  • Evaluation of a Pet for Therapy Work
  • American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test
  • TDI Testing Requirements
  • Delta Society Pet Partners Evaluation
  • Pet Partners Skills Test
  • Pet Partners Aptitude Test
  • Tuskegee Behavior Test
  • Risk Management in Animal Assisted Counseling
  • Client Screening for AAT
  • Recognizing Stress in Therapy Animals
  • Understanding Your Pet’s Communication
  • Preventing Injury and Infection during AAT
  • Preparing a Pet for a Therapy Visit
  • Ethical Considerations for AAT
  • Dangers for Animals in Elderly Residential Care Facilities
  • Concerns for Animals in Visitation Programs
  • Animal Assisted Counseling Techniques
  • Animals as a Surrogate for Therapeutic Touch
  • Animal Assisted Rapport Building
  • Animal Assisted Psychosocial Goals and Techniques
  • Animal Facilitated Life Stage Development
  • A Typical Animal Assisted Counseling Session
  • Introducing the Pet Practitioner
  • Animal Assisted Basic Relational Techniques
  • Accessing Feelings through the Use of AAT
  • Animal Assisted Family History Gathering
  • Animal Assisted Interventions and Clinical Diagnoses
  • Animal Assisted Metaphor
  • Animal Assisted Play Therapy
  • Play Therapy Yard
  • Animal Assisted Group Play Therapy
  • Equine Assisted Counseling
  • The Therapeutic Zoo
  • Termination Issues in AAT-C
  • Documentation and AAT
  • Program Evaluation and AAT
  • Cultural Differences in Attitudes about Animals
  • AAT-C with Elderly Clients
  • AAT-C with Hospitalized and Hospice Clients
  • AAT-C with Clients in Prisons or Detention Centers
  • Residential AAT Programs in Prisons
  • Juvenile Detention Programs with AAT
  • Therapy Dogs Make the Best Crisis Response Pet Practitioners
  • The Nature of Crisis
  • Crisis Response Safety
  • The Nature of Crisis Response Counseling
  • Guidelines for AAT Program Development
  • Types of AAT School-Based Programs
  • How to Solicit Funding for Your AAT Program
  • How to Report on the Progress of Your AAT Program
  • Obtaining AAT Credentials
  • Being a Role Model: Practicing AAT-C
  • Developing a University Course
  • Involving the Community
  • Establishing a Center
  • Creating Student Internships in the Community
  • Serving as an Educational Resource
  • Gaining National and International Recognition
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • Appendix D
  • Appendix E
  • Appendix F
  • Appendix G
  • References
  • Index

Barker and Dawson (1998) reported a successful use of a single AAT session in the
reduction of anxiety with hospitalized psychiatric patients with psychotic disorders,
mood disorders, and other disorders. A comparison group, a single session of thera-
peutic recreation, only experienced a reduction in anxiety for patients with mood dis-
orders. Thus, AAT was determined to be effective in the reduction of state anxiety
levels for psychiatric patients with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses.
The presence of a certified therapy dog, a nine-year-old Golden Retriever, was
found to significantly alleviate distress in children undergoing a standard pediatric
physical examination (Hansen, Messinger, Baun, & Megel, 1999). Thirty-four children
aged 2 to 6 years participated in the study. A two-group repeated measures design was
used to examine rating scores of videotaped sessions rated with the Observation Scale
of Behavioral Distress. Although distress scores increased for both groups over time
regardless of the dog’s presence, when the dog was in the examination room, fewer
behaviors indicative of distress were exhibited, so the children had significantly dif-
ferent distress scores.


A “pets as therapy” program was found to be beneficial with persons with dementia
in a psychiatric ward (Walsh, Mertin, Verlander, & Pollard, 1995). Seven partici-
pants who were over 65 years of age and who were diagnosed as having some form
of dementia, usually of the Alzheimer’s type, served as the experimental group. The
study was conducted over a 12-week period. The intervention involved an equal
amount of supervised visitation time for each subject over a 3-hour period twice
perweek. The pet therapist was a trained, public relations Labrador for the Guide
Dog Association that was very experienced with people, of a quiet temperament, and
not likely to become excited. The handler was a qualified obedience instructor of
8years who owns and trains the dog. Measures included ratings on the London
Psycho-Geriatric Rating Scale (LPRS; for the measurement of mental disorganization/
confusion), the Brighton Clinic Adaptive Behaviour Scale (BCABS; to assess daily
functioning), diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and ward noise levels. Results indi-
cated significant experimental group changes in reduction in heart rate and a sub-
stantial drop in noise levels during the presence of the dog. No significant differences
on pre- and post-test comparisons between the experimental and control group were
found on the LPRS or the BCABS. Although no significant differences were found
between the experimental and control group in blood pressure change, there was a
slight drop in mean diastolic blood pressure for the experimental group.
The presence of a therapy dog visiting with residents at three long-term care
facilities increased socialization for participants with Alzheimer’s disease (Batson,
McCabe, Baun, & Wilson, 1998). The mean age of participants was 77.9 years. The
therapy animal was a miniature Schnauzer certified as a therapy dog. Patients partic-
ipated in 10-minute sessions on 2 different days: 1 day with the dog present and
1day without the dog present; the conditions were randomly presented based on a
random numbers table. Sessions were videotaped for later coding. Dependent t-tests
analysis revealed significant increases when the dog was present for the following
socialization variables: smiles, tactile contact, looks, physical warmth, praise, and

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duration of leans toward. The researchers also examined several physiological
parameters, but no significant difference was found for these: blood pressure, pulse,
or peripheral skin temperature.


Exposure to an aviary was reported to be effective in reducing depression in elderly
males at a veteran’s hospital (Holcomb et al., 1997). The aviary was 10 × 8 × 4 feet
and contained 20 songbirds representing about 10 different breeds. The walls of the
aviary were Plexiglas to allow for easy viewing. It was well lit and clearly visible from
any point in the activity room. A video camera taped interactions of hospital residents
with the aviary, and judges viewed and rated the videotaped interactions on a six-
point scale. Interactions rated included length of time focused on the aviary, inten-
sity of aviary observation, ignoring the aviary, glancing at the aviary, talking to the
birds, and talking with others about the birds. Statistical covariance analysis demon-
strated a significant relationship between improvements in depression, as measured
by the Geriatric Depression Index, and greater utilization of the aviary.
AAT with a therapy dog was shown to be somewhat effective in reducing depres-
sion in adult college students (Folse, Minder, Aycock, & Santana, 1994). Students
were selected for participation based on their scores on the Beck Depression Inven-
tory (BDI) and placed into one of three groups: AAT with directive group psycho-
therapy, nondirective group AAT only without psychotherapy, and a control group.
The greatest differences were discovered between the AAT only group and the
control group, with BDI scores reducing significantly for the AAT only group. Non-
significant mixed results were found between the AAT psychotherapy group and the
control group. It was thought that the nondirective interactions with the therapy dog
in the AAT only group uplifted the mood of the group members, whereas the directive
psychotherapy with AAT focused clients on painful issues and thus mediated the
results of this combined therapy approach. It is important to note that 6 of the 9 par-
ticipants in the AAT and psychotherapy combined group did show reductions in BDI
scores. But the statistics applied to the study compared the statistical significance of
pre- and post-test scores and failed to investigate the possibility of clinical significance
or effect size. It is possible that, if it had been utilized, the more sensitive effect size
statistic may have demonstrated some clinically significant impact for the AAT and
psychotherapy combined group.
The positive effects of pet facilitated therapy to impact depression seem to be
based on more than just an opportunity for patients to socialize in the presence of
novel stimuli. Mcvarish (1995) demonstrated that patients shown photographs of pets
did not show the decrease in depression that patients did who interacted briefly with
an animal. Participants consisted of 74 inpatients recruited from two psychiatric hos-
pitals. The photograph group included one 40-minute visit with trained volunteers who
shared 250 photographs of pets. The pet therapy group consisted of one 40-minute
visit of the same trained volunteers who introduced dogs and kittens to the group.
Itwas found that (a) the pet facilitated therapy group showed a significantly greater
decrease in depressive symptoms than inpatients who received the animal photo-
graph session; and (b) the animal photograph group showed a significantly greater
decrease in depressive symptoms than inpatients who did not receive any treatment
as evidenced by a decrease in total mean scores of the BDI and the Brief Psychiatric

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Rating Scale. Thus, although social visitation that centers on novel inanimate stimuli
(animal photographs) does seem to positively impact depression, what is most impor-
tant is that social visitation that centers on the presentation of animals has an even
significantly greater positive effect.


AAT has been reported to serve as a source of motivation for client participation in
therapy. Over the course of 2 years, an animal assisted occupational therapy (OT)
group attracted the highest percentage of psychiatric inpatients voluntarily choosing
to attend an OT group (Holcomb & Meacham, 1989). The types of OT groups offered
included Hug-a-Pet (the AAT group), Living Skills, Clinic, Communication, Assertive-
ness, Special Topics, Chemical Dependency, and Exercise. In addition, it was found
that AAT was the most effective of all of the various types of OT groups offered in
attracting isolated individuals to participate regardless of diagnosis.

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