19 March 2012
Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy
Throughout human history, “animals have occupied a central position in theories concerning the ontology and treatment of sickness and disease” (Serpell 16). Animals have played a major role in the lives of humans in ways that have affected our entire being and survival. Countless amounts of people, animals, and time have been put into bringing AAT all over the world; as a result, five other countries have adopted this form of therapy. The volunteers and workers of Animal Assisted Therapy have pushed to bring an exciting new therapy to children and adults all around. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a familiar method of treatment and rehabilitation in many diseases and conditions, where the animal becomes an important “behavioral facilitator”, causing improvements in the behavior and health of the patient. “Numerous authors and medical professionals point to its importance and in particular that the positive feedback between the patient, the animal, and the therapist reduces many symptoms, and improves the quality of life” (Yeh 2005). The history of Animal Assisted Therapy can be traced back to the 9th Century. It is a goal-oriented intervention in which an animal that meets the criteria becomes an integral part of the treatment process for patients. The benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy far outweigh the risks, and should be used and recognized as an effective form of therapy. AAT in a natural environment brings about the encounter between a patient and an animal, which elevates the motivation and strength of the individual. The therapist-animal-patient trio establishes such mechanisms which increase the level of communication. “It enhances motivation, the driving force that heals” (Journal of Psychology 44). The patient learns to experience himself/herself in relation to others, and to better perceive truth and reality. Pressure from school can exacerbate medical and psychological pathologies in kids. “The use of Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities maybe [a] useful tool which could be offered in school counseling” (Chandler 2000). If AAT is offered in schools, it could bring in students who are too scared and embarrassed to talk about their problems. “The presence of an animal can facilitate a trust-bonding relationship between therapist and client” (Chandler 2000). The bond between client and therapist is essential because without a connection no progress will be made in the recovery of the patient/client. Additionally, “Animal Assisted Therapy interactions are goal directed, individualized to the patient and has documented progress” (Bloomquist). The purpose of AAT is to develop checkpoints and make a patient’s recovery fast and fun. With the goals in mind, it is easier to track a patient’s progress. Animals keep the patient in check; “positive psychological and psychosocial [and physiological] benefits have been linked to the presence of animals. Reductions in blood pressure, heart rates, and stress levels, as well as increases in emotional well-being and social interaction are benefits from the human- animal bond “(Jorgenson 1997). Animals become more aware of possible problems and act as caretaker. “Animals can be aware of internal states, and so they can alert individuals of impending seizures [and any other health emergencies]” (Granger).We accept animals as potential healers and major contributors to our health, happiness, wellness, and vitality. The effectiveness of AAT “has gained wide spread support and application over the past few decades” (Connor 2000). The therapy involves special training for the animals to work with patients. The Delta Society defines Animal Assisted Therapy as a targeted intervention in which an animal complying with specific criteria represents an integral part of the therapeutic process. Animal Assisted Therapy has physical, mental,...