Animal and Pet Psychology

Animal and Pet Psychology

Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic procedure that incorporates animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, and birds, into their treatment plan.

The client, pet psychologist, and the animal work together in common therapeutic activities that are defined in a treatment plan, with expected positive outcomes, clear objectives, and the expectation of measurable progress toward the treatment goals. The therapy can take many forms, based on the patient, the animal, and the objectives for treatment.

Pet-assisted therapy is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapeutic activities.

When pet psychology is Used

Pet-assisted therapy can be a useful tool for some individuals or groups. It can help with a variety of situations and conditions including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Addiction
  • Schizophrenia
  • in Correcting Emotional and behavioral problems in children
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Certain medical conditions

Anyone who dislikes or fears animals or is allergic to them is not a likely candidate for this particular therapy.

Animal-assisted therapy is based on relationships that can develop between people and animals. Animals can provide a sense of well-being, comfort, or safety and divert attention away from a stressful situation and toward one that provides comfort. Animals can help combat loneliness, both through interactions with the animal and interactions that involve other humans. Animals can influence people to get more physical activity than they would otherwise.

While pet-assisted therapy can help many people, its true potency is yet to be ascertained.

How It Works

Advocates of animal-assisted therapy say that developing a strong bond with an animal can help people develop a better sense of self-worth and trust, stabilize their emotional volatility, and improve their communication and discipline.

What to Expect

Pwt Psychology

Depending on the nature of your therapy and the type of pet animal involved, you might like to keep a dog, cat, or other pet at home and at your side throughout the day for emotional support, or you might learn to ride and care for a therapy horse that is housed at an equestrian school.

You and your therapist may discuss your animal while you are working with it, or you might schedule another time to talk about your experiences. If you are in a hospital, school, rehabilitation center, nursing home, or another type of community center, you might not have a relationship with a psychotherapist, but a volunteer with a trained therapy pet might visit you.

What to Look for in an Animal-Assisted Therapist

Animal-assisted therapy often serves parallelly with traditional work done by a licensed psychotherapist, social worker, or other mental health professional.

Dogs are most often used, although various animal-assisted programs offer different animals for people with different physical and social needs. Service dogs may come from animal shelters or be raised in selective breeding programs, but they must have a formal training certificate. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a written prescription or a letter of consent from a medical doctor, licensed psychotherapist, or social worker to certify or register your own therapy or emotional-support animal. You can find information and groups that provide trained service dogs in your area through Assistance Dogs International. A professional mental health care provider who is familiar with animal-assisted therapies can help you get certification for your own pet or locate a program or animal that suits you. Therapists may also partner with an animal-therapy program, such as Pet Partners, to provide individuals or groups with trained therapy animals.

It’s important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. You may want to ask the therapist a few questions before committing to work with them. Questions may include:

  • How would they help with your particular concerns?
  • Have they dealt with this type of problem before?
  • What is their process?
  • What is their timeline for treatment?

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