What Is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)?
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the utilization of animals as a therapeutic modality to facilitate healing and rehabilitation of patients with acute or chronic diseases.
It is defined as a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered and documented by a health/human service professional with a specific clinical goal for a particular individual in mind. According to Delta Society’s ‘Animal-Assisted Therapy–Therapeutic Interventions’, AAT is not a style of therapy, like rational-emotive therapy, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, etc. Instead, a therapist who utilizes AAT operates from his/her professional foundation and facilitates change in a client through the client’s interactions with an animal.
Physical therapists, occupational therapists, certified therapeutic recreation specialists, recreational therapists, teachers, social workers, and others can incorporate AAT into their work and treatments in a multitude of ways. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. AAT is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature. This process is documented and evaluated.
When a counselor asks a patient with post trauma stress to share his feelings with the therapy dog, the counselor is using AAT.
When a speech therapist incorporates a therapy dog to motivate a child with speech difficulties to try and talk, she is using AAT.
What is Animal Assisted Activity (AAA)
Definition: “AAA provides opportunities for motivational, educational, and/or recreational benefits to enhance quality of life. AAA is delivered in variety of environments by a specially trained professional, and /or volunteer, in association with animals that meet specific criteria.”
In AAA specific goals are not planned for each visit. It is more of a spontaneous visit, more with the intention of improving the quality of life and spreading happiness and well being.
Examples of AAA
A volunteer brings her cat to an old age home. The people there are made to talk about the cat. The otherwise uncommunicative residents talk to the cat and to each other. Thus improving social skills. Also the cat visiting them every week and grooming the cat when she is cuddled up in their lap reduces loneliness.
What is Animal Assisted Education (AAE)
Animal Assisted Education (AAE) is a specialized application of Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) or Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) directed at students and classroom interactions. It involves the incorporation of animals into an educational setting. It can be done within the classroom or as an educational tool outside of the classroom, like the session we conduct at libraries, bookstores of remedial centers. Positive interaction with animals can improve interest levels in academic activities and enhance a child’s ability to interact with others.
What is the difference between AAA and AAT?
AAA or a visitation program occurs when animals accompany their owners to a facility and visit with the patients or residents. The main goal of this type of program is socialization. An Animal Assisted Therapy program occurs when animals are used by the therapist in goal directed treatment sessions, as a modality, to facilitate optimal patient outcomes. In AAA you need not be a therapist to visit with your pet. There are no fixed goals for AAA programs unlike AAT where it is completely goal oriented. Regardless of the type of program, all animals should be temperament tested, given a complete veterinary screening and receive obedience training and therapy training before beginning to work with patients.
How is a service dog or an disability assist dog different from a therapy dog?
As service dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities other than visual or hearing impairment. Examples include guide dog for blind, mobility assistance dogs (for disabled) , and seizure response or medical response dogs.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. “Seeing eye dogs” are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include: Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds, Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments, Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs. A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested and certified to work at different settings like hospital, nursing home, school, and other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community.
The canine program of Delta Society Pet Partners under whom Minal and Kutty were registered, is an example of a therapy dog. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals.