Service Dogs and Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs used by Mental Health Professionals
is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and birds, into the treatment plan. It is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy.
When it’s used
Animal-assisted therapy can be a useful intervention for individuals or groups. A meta-analysis of 49 studies reporting on animal-assisted therapy found positive outcomes and overall improved emotional well-being in those with autism, medical conditions, or behavioral issues.
Another review of randomized, controlled studies found that animal-assisted therapy can be helpful for those battling illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, or addiction.
Anyone who dislikes or fears animals or is allergic to them, is not a likely candidate for this particular intervention.
What to Expect
Depending on the nature of your therapy and the type of animal involved, you may keep a dog, cat, or other pet at home and at your side throughout the day for emotional support, or you might learn to care for a therapy dog at a training school . You and your therapist may discuss your animal while you are working with it, or you may set aside another time to talk about your experiences. If you are in a hospital, school, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or another type of community center, you may not have a relationship with a psychotherapist, but a volunteer with a trained therapy pet might visit you.