Pet therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals (dog, cat, bird, fish – anything) as a form of treatment. The main goal is to improve one’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Pet therapy has been shown to provide many benefits. Things like making us feel safe, boost our moods, and enhance our social situation seem pretty straightforward. But did you know pet therapy can all reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and keep us connected to the world? Check out more details about the benefits of pet therapy.
Pet Therapy: Occupational Therapy
Scooby, now 6 years old, recently completed training through the Jefferson County Kennel Club of Missouri Inc. He passed the Canine Good Citizenship test and was certified for animal-assisted therapy. Scooby now accompanies Tagger to work every day. They participate in group and individual therapy sessions with clients ranging from mid-teens to adults.
“Teens with psychological disorders – depression, anxiety, anger issues, chemical dependency – are resistant to opening up about their problems,” Tagger said. “They say, ‘Why should I trust you? I don’t even know you.’ But animals are seen as non-threatening; there’s no abuse, no manipulation, no pain – they just love you.”
“There is a natural tendency for humans and pets to form relationships because animal-assisted therapy uses that tendency to help the therapist achieve goals with the patient, Tagger said. When her adolescent clients see her interacting with the dog, they see her as a safe and loving person. “The kids engage with the dog, then with each other and with me.” The simple act of petting an animal actually lowers a person’s blood pressure, Tagger said, and it may be especially comforting for patients who have endured abuse. “My teenage clients often sit on the floor during therapy sessions, soothing themselves by petting the dog,” Tagger said. “If the patient is a victim of sexual abuse, hugging the dog is a safe way for them to receive physical contact.”
Pet Therapy: Speech-Language Pathology
The study participants received two months of individual and group speech-language therapy sessions with a graduate clinician. That was followed by four to five sessions of individual half-hour sessions with the therapy dog, handler and graduate clinician. Subject A received five consecutive weeks of AAT, while subject B missed one appointment and received four weeks of AAT. Group and music therapy sessions also were held during this time. The AAT dog became the meaningful therapeutic material and extrinsic motivation for Subject A’s personal goal of improvement through aphasia therapy.
The structured sessions addressed three main tasks:
- The client was asked to greet the dog. To supplement a nonverbal cue from the clinician, greetings were attached by Velcro to a laminated board, also serving as visual cues. She made comments independently, such as “Hi, Moose,” “Good boy, Moose” and “Want a treat, Moose?” -The client then was asked to state 10 sentences describing what she was doing with the dog, such as “I am petting Moose” or “I am brushing the dog.”
- After two minutes of free playtime with the dog, she was asked to state 10 sentences that corresponded with pictures and the dog’s activities of daily living (ADLs). Written sentences and laminated pictures again were provided on a board to supplement the activity visually. Nonverbal and phonemic cues were given if the patient independently requested help after a 30-second time period.
- For the last seven minutes of the session, she was asked to identify body parts using the AAT dog and the clinician as examples, stating words such as “head,” “hand” and “back.” This activity was supplemented with posted laminated pictures and words, as well as nonverbal and phonemic cues if necessary. The AAT dog also became the primary focused material and motivation factor in the sessions for Subject B, who was instructed that the dog would respond better if she made a maximum effort to speak clearly and loudly. We fondly referred to the voice she used to talk to the dog as her “Moose voice.”
Pet Therapy: Physical Therapy
I couldn’t find a great article on using pets in physical therapy, but I viewed a short video that showed recovering stroke patients and recovering back and arm surgery patients re-learning to use their muscles. They threw the ball for a dog; the dog retrieved it and brought it right back to the patient. Watching the enthusiastic dog trying to catch/chasing the ball, it brightened the patient’s day and they forgot why they were really there.
Host Healthcare Travel Nurse and Travel Therapy
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