Animal Assisted Therapy
Lots of different animals may be included in AAT programmes, however, I work mainly with dogs and cats and sometimes with guinea pigs and rabbits, cats. When using the pets in therapy, I ensure I follow appropriate guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of clients and of the therapy animals at all times.
What the first session brings
The first session is an initial assessment session to enable me to find out the basic facts about you and the people who are in your life. During the 60 minutes, I will start to get to know you and about the issues that are preventing you to move forward. All that you tell me is kept in the strictness of confidence. From this session we can discuss how counselling can help you and we can make a plan to move you forward. The next sessions can be planned and payment arrangements made. If your plan involves animal assisted intervention then you can decide on which animal you prefer for example dog or cat. You will then be introduced to your therapy animal to check you are comfortable with that pet, then therapy can begin.
How it works in the Counselling session
When having Animal Assisted Therapy the therapy pet sits with you in your counselling session like on your knee for example. By stroking the pet, this promotes relaxation and stimulates the release of a number of “feel good” hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.
Animals offer affection and unconditional acceptance. They live in the ‘here and now’ and are responsive, and don’t mind who you are or what you look like. They are usually direct and honest and unlike humans they are non-judgemental. Animals don’t criticise, hold grudges, change the rules or otherwise confuse through verbal communications. Clients can actually feel safer and less threatened while being around animals. Nurturing and empathic traits can be encouraged while being around the company of animals, and for abuse survivors, they can offer an opportunity for ‘safe touch’.
Benefits of positive interactions between people and animals are likely to include:
- Development of relationships and emotional bonds built on trust and respectImproved mood, morale and sense of self worth
- Better social interaction, reducing feelings of social isolation
- Relief from anxiety and stress (slower heart rate and lower blood pressure.
- Learning new skills – nurturing and caring for animals appropriately
Animal Assisted Therapy aims to promote mental, physical, and social well-being. Lots of people can benefit from this intervention including being used in a variety of settings including hospitals, special schools and colleges, prisons, residential care and in counselling practices. Studies also suggest that it is particularly effective for vulnerable people including those with emotional and behavioural problems. Working alongside animals offers practitioners a different way of exploring difficult and sensitive issues and clients are more likely to express their feelings and recount painful experiences. Research indicates when clients suffer from depression, they can benefit with a focus of interest and positive attention, as well as having the pleasure in handling animals. Time spent stroking and talking to dogs can result in lowering blood pressure, relieving pain, reducing anxiety levels and enhancing mood.
How & why I can relate to your issues
I can relate to pain and suffering that disability brings and the challenges and pitfalls life throws at you, as I am disabled myself. Also experienced in loss I can offer the chance for you to share your painful story’s.
I can help you by empowering you, to turn negative experiences into positive ones, in a step by step way and help you motivate your self, turning those bad experiences into better managed ones, instilling hope to your future. Empowerment and motivation will help you discover who you really are and be how you really want it to be.
Sessions are reviewed on session 8 to see how you are progressing. Further sessions can be added as long as there is a need.
Links to research
Scientists have found that dogs and owners experience surges in oxytocin, a hormone responsible for maternal caring, when they look into each other’s eyes
The ‘cuddle hormone’ that could reveal if your dog really DOES love