by Dr. Karen Becker
You might be wondering how the presence of a cat or dog in a counseling office can speed the progress of therapy for some patients.
I mean, it seems obvious animal lovers who are therapy patients would probably be comforted having a dog or cat to pet while they talk about their problems.
But how exactly does that translate to faster breakthroughs in the therapeutic process?
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the brainchild of Boris Levinson, a psychologist who back in the 1950s discovered purely by accident his dog Jingles was able to engage an autistic child in a way humans had not.Since the late 1970s,the Delta Society has been the most recognized name in the field of AAT. Dogs are the most frequently used therapy animals, but the society also trains cats, birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, llamas and even pigs and snakes in their program.According to Delta’s research, when people hold and stroke an animal — or in some cases just see one — a number of healthful physical and psychological transitions occur, including:
• Lowered blood pressure and a feeling of calm
• The ability to be more extroverted and verbal
• Decreased loneliness and increased self-esteem
How Animals Help in Psychotherapeutic Settings
Susan Lee Bady, a clinical social worker who uses her two cats in her practice,says her pets serve a number of different functions, including:
• Facilitating emotional expression
• Allowing touching
• Encouraging spontaneity and fun
• Providing unconditional love of the sort never found in human relationships
Bady’s patients report feelings of peacefulness and serenity when they watch the cats cuddle and groom each other. This feeling is enhanced when a cat jumps into a patient’s lap. Some patients speak more freely while holding or petting one of the cats. Patients who are out of touch with their emotions are sometimes able to identify and understand them by watching the behavior of the cats. read more
Daisy the Therapy Dog has been accompanying me to the office since she was a puppy of 8 weeks old in January 2014. She will love greeting you in my waiting room and sitting with you during your session.
Here are two articles below that will help you understand how
Animal Assisted Therapy works.
Alan R. Spector, LCSW
970 N. Kalaheo Ave., Suite C208
Kailua, HI 96734
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Daisy the Therapy Dog is ready to meet you!
Therapists Use ‘Canine Assistants’ to Comfort, Cheer Patients; Duke Senses an Anxiety Disorder
Walk into psychiatrist Drew Ramsey’s office in Manhattan and you’ll likely be greeted by Gus, a four-year-old Shih Tzu. After escorting you through the waiting room, he may hop onto the ottoman and go to sleep or sit beside you on the couch.
Some patients pat Gus while they talk to Dr. Ramsey. A few talk to Gus instead. And if they get emotional, Gus provides physical comfort that therapists can’t offer. “We can’t hug patients, but patients can hug Gus,” says Dr. Ramsey, who began bringing his dog to his office two years ago. Now, he says, “I think about Gus the way a cowboy thinks of his horse—he’s part of the job.”
A small but growing number of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other therapists are bringing their dogs to work in their private practices, where they help calm patients down, cheer them up and offer a happy distraction with a wagging tail. The job is similar to what therapy dogs do when they visit at hospitals or nursing homes, but these “canine therapy-assistants” often work full days and get to know the patients just as well as the doctors.
Even some medical doctors have put their pups to work. Lacey, part golden retriever, part spaniel, entertains waiting patients at New York plastic surgeon Janis Di Pietro’s office, though she isn’t allowed in the procedure room.Lola and Wolfie, mutts aged three and 17, put elderly patients at ease for New York neurologist Gayatri Devi, who specializes in memory disorders. “Coming to this office can be unnerving for dementia patients, but when they see a dog, it’s disarming. They feel comforted and safe,” she says. read more