Animal Assisted Counseling of Colorado

Pet Partners defines animal-assisted therapy (AAT) as “a goal directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise within their field. 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.” Utilizing AAT means that there are specified treatment goals with corresponding objectives.

What are the benefits of AAT?

  • Animals help improve motivation and engagement in therapy, perhaps resulting in a shorter recovery process (and lower costs).
  • Animals provide a sense of security and emotional support. Dogs in particular offer unconditional acceptance and positive regard.
  • Animals can promote relaxation. Research has demonstrated that petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and increase oxytocin (a feel-good chemical in the brain). In a study of people who had heart attacks, those that had a companion animal lived longer than those that did not.
  • Animals can help the client learn frustration tolerance and other anger management techniques.
  • Animals can help in the areas of focus and attention.
  • Animals can be instruments of learning, which can increase self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Animals offer humor and fun due to their playful nature.
  • Animals in therapy ask for clients to develop empathy, nurturance, and responsibility, and model other skills like forgiveness and patience.
  • Clients can learn about stereotypes affecting animals, and how they deal with stereotypes in their own life. Through this, they can learn advocacy skills.
  • Through the use of positive reinforcement-based dog training, clients can learn the importance of rewarding good behaviors in themselves, in their partners, and/or their children.