(AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an animal
with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental part of a person's treatment. Animal-assisted therapy is designed to improve the physical
, and/or cognitive
functioning of the patient, as well as provide educational
effectiveness for participants . AAT can be provided on an individual or group basis. During AAT, therapists document records and evaluate the participant's progress.
Many kinds of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, elephants, birds, dolphins, rabbits, lizards, and other small animals. AAT with horses is known specifically as equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP), equine-assisted creative living (EACL), equine-assisted personal development (EAPD) or hippotherapy.
People who have pets
benefit in various ways, for example, the comfort of physical contact with animals, reducing loneliness
, and increased opportunities for meeting others, via the pets. In addition, caring for pets encourages nurturance, responsibility, and adherence to a daily schedule.
May lower blood pressure, risk for stroke or heartattack, and decrease depression.
A 2007 meta-analysis
found that animal-assisted therapy is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in autism spectrum
symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.
- Increase verbal interactions between group members.
- Increase attention skills (i.e., paying attention, staying on task).
- Develop leisure/recreation skills.
- Increase self-esteem.
- Reduce anxiety.
- Reduce loneliness.
- Increase vocabulary.
- Aid in long- or short-term memory.
- Improve knowledge of concepts, such as size, color, etc.
- Improve willingness to be involved in a group activity.
- Improve interactions with others.
- Improve interactions with staff.
Researchers at Emory University
have concluded that Dolphin Assisted Therapy is "...a dangerous fad." and lacks any real efficacy. Furthermore, the practice of capturing dolphins can leave more injured or even dead.
- Learning More, (2006). Aqua Thought Foundation Retrieved April 9, 2006.
- Oakley, Dawn., and Bardin, Gail., The Potential Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for Children With Special Needs Retrieved April 9, 2006.
- Howie, Ann R., (2000). The Human-Animal Health Connection Pet Partners Team Training Course Manual 5th Ed. Delta Society, Renton, WA.
- Howie, Ann R., (2000, 2006). "Starting a Visiting-Animal Group" Providence St. Peter Foundation, Olympia, WA.