What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
You probably have heard that having a pet can have positive effects on an owner’s health.
Some people are unable to keep a pet, but can get help from a therapist who uses animals in his/her practice.
AAT was introduced in the 1960’s by a therapist (Dr. Boris Levinson) who discovered accidentally that his sessions with children were more effective when his dog was in the room. His book, “Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy,” encouraged other therapists to enlist the assistance of animals in therapy sessions.
Now, animals are introduced into senior care centers, prisons, hospitals and individual therapist’s offices to help people achieve healing. Often, the benefit is an increased sense of well-being and insofar as a positive attitude assists in all types of healing, it is an important benefit. Studies of the effect of animals on ill, stressed, or injured people yield promising results.
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Animals are trained for therapy work and often live with the therapists who employ them. In order to be a therapist, one must have college degrees, usually in psychology studies.There are training and certification programs available to the therapist who wants to become an Animal-Assisted Therapist. There are also professional organizations one can join in specific lines of work with pets (i.e., equine therapy, therapy dogs, etc.)