A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO ANIMAL-ASSISTED HUMAN PSYCHOTHERAPY
Animal-assisted therapy(AAT) helps the diseased or psychologically disturbed humans in getting their normal life. Simply, this is a type of therapy to normalize the social, mental, physical, and emotional functioning of humans by the use of a wide range of animals such as dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and many other species.
Here, we will briefly throw light on the incorporation of animals into the psychotherapy process, by mainly emphasizing on the animal-human bond(interaction).
HOW ANIMAL-ASSISTED THERAPY AIDS DISTURBED INDIVIDUALS?
As it is clear that, the need of an individual to define the type of animal to be used in the therapy process. Humans create a strong association(bond) with animals by spending some quality time with them since animals are accepting, non-threatening, and non-judgmental, making it easier for people to open up.
These are some key physiological and psychological benefits which humans get through this therapy procedure:
1) It improves self-esteem and the ability to care for oneself.
2 It boosts up the trust, empathy and teamwork.
3) It has a drastic impact on the reduction of anger and aggression.
4) It helps humans to improve their social life( makes them extrovert).
5) It has a significant effect on decreasing heart rate and blood pressure.
6) It reduces hostility towards others and oneself along with encouraging a sense of empowerment.
7) It enhances fine motor skills also with boosting focus and attention.
8) It reduces the need for medications and empowers greater self-control.
9) It improves balance and reduces depression, anxiety, and isolation.
10) It enhances the willingness to be involved in a therapeutic program or group activity.
Additionally, autism spectrum disorder, addiction, cancer, heart disease, dementia, developmental disorders, psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, emotional and behavioral disorders, chronic pain can also be cured through animal-assisted therapy.
WHICH ARE REQUIREMENT FOR CONDUCTION OF ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPIES?
Interestingly, animal-assisted therapies can be held in any setting including hospitals, prisons, homes, therapeutic boarding homes for teens, and other mental health care facilities. Moreover, this kind of therapy can be conducted individually or in the form groups only under the supervision of an expert therapist or professional trainers.
Owning a therapy or companion animal, such as a dog trained to sense and alleviate anxiety, is only loosely considered a type of animal-assisted psychotherapy. AAT, by definition, involves the active participation of mental health professionals. Studies that evaluate the benefits of AAT generally do not include evidence gathered from this particular population.
HOW ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY TAKES PLACE?
Much more than simply spending time with an animal, animal-assisted therapy involves specific therapeutic goals, strategies, and outcomes measures. Therapeutic experiences can include walking, brushing, petting, and caring for an animal, as well as processing the experience of trying to achieve a given task.
IS ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY SUITABLE FOR ALL AGE GROUPS?
This type of therapy can be beneficial for all age groups. You can see significant improvement in the behavior and interpersonal relationships in young children. For instance, young children who are unable to express physical and emotional comfort and closeness with others, or find it difficult to do so, may more readily form that type of bond with a horse or other animal.
This bond between animals and children can help them to develop positive traits in their personality such as patience, empathy, acceptance, confidence, activeness, and much more.
Research studies have also shown that these animal-assisted therapies are very beneficial for aged and elderly people. Animal-assisted therapy can be especially productive for people who used to have dogs or other animals but are no longer able to care for their own animal. Being in the presence of pets again can help remind people of the love they had for previous animals, stirring memories and reducing loneliness.
Animal-assisted psychotherapies have a wide range of applications in curing many ailments in human beings but special precautions must be taken while dealing with the animals. Different animals show a variety of behaviors, as horses can pose a high risk of danger to children because of their large weight and size. So, there is a need for some exercises and training.
In addition, some people experience allergies and other medical concerns while coming into contact with animals and their environment.
There is always a need to consult a health expert/trainer while undergoing any animal-assisted therapy, as better decisions and strategies can bring you better outcomes.
Hallberg, L. (2008). Walking the way of the horse: Exploring the power of the horse-human relationship. Bloomington,
Martin, F., & Farnum, J. (2002). Animal-assisted therapy for children with pervasive developmental disorders. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 24(6), 657-670
Barker, S. B., & Dawson, K. S. (1998). The effects of animal-assisted therapy on anxiety ratings of hospitalized psychiatric patients. Psychiatric Services, 49(6), 797-801.
Nimer, J., & Lundahl, B. (2007). Animal-assisted therapy: A meta-analysis. Anthrozoös, 20(3), 225-238