Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Animal-Assisted Therapy: Is Medicine Going to the Dogs?

I’ve served as a volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter and in the patient care department of a local hospital. I’ve seen first-hand how the human-animal bond raises spirits, aids in healing, and transforms lives. Anecdotal observations and clinical studies back-up how animal-assisted therapy can help healing and lessen depression and fatigue. So, is medicine going to the dogs?

Yes, and in a positive way.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is gaining acceptance in healthcare clinical settings, in private therapy practices, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities and those approaching end of life; and in helping wounded military to heal from physical and emotional damage. I spoke with several experts in this field, to better understand what’s behind this growing trend.

What is Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) & Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?


Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) is a broad term that includes Animal-Assisted Therapy and other Animal-Assisted Activities.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a growing field that uses specially-trained and certified dogs or other animals, paired with a specially-trained human partner, to focus on a specific goal: to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as:
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • mental health disorders.
The ASPCA points out “therapy animals are not service or assistance animals and are not granted the same legal rights of access.”

Animal-Assisted Therapy have a more general purpose, such as providing comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents.
Operation Kindness has made about 4,387 animal-companion adoptions so far this year, and deploys creative ways to find homes for hard-to-place animals. Squeaks [pictured] has early-stage renal failure. 
When the residents of a local assisted living center heard about Squeaks, they made a home for her (as well as hundreds of blankets!)Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) may be provided in a variety of settings, may be group or individual in nature, and may be implemented for persons of any age. 

How Does Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) Work?


Dr. Aubrey Fine is an AAI pioneer, author of several books, professor at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, and licensed psychologist whose practice specializes in treating children with ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental disorders and parent child relations.

He also serves on the Board of Directors at Pet Partners, a national nonprofit, that registers handles of multiple species as volunteer teams, providing animal-assisted interactions. Dr. Fine’s successful use of therapy animals in treating children is documented in “The Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy” (now in production for the fourth edition: Elsevier/Academic Press, 2015).

Dr. Aubrey Fine | AAI pioneer, author, professor at California State Polytechnic University; and licensed psychologist; pictured with Magic
Dr. Fine describes one of his pediatric cases, 5-year-old Diane, who, though she spoke at home, she was “selectively mute” and refused to speak to anyone else, including her kindergarten teacher.

 Read Full Article: http://www.sugarthegoldenretriever.com/2015/06/animal-assisted-therapy-is-medicine-going-to-the-dogs/

Related Article: The animal-assisted therapy