Is it Magic??
Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) has congregated a considerable amount of attention in social media and in the press in recent years. Almost daily, there are news stories that highlight the role of the human-animal bond in helping humans with physical, emotional, and mental disabilities along with the healing aspects of those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many of the social media and press stories focus on "awwww" factor in which the animal is viewed as a mystical creature with special healing powers. Professionals that utilize AAI frequently hear this reference to the "magic" that happens when a client interacts with the dogs. While most professionals/handlers agree that the connection and interactions that occurred between the AAI dog and the client are very special and contribute greatly to client progress, a great deal of responsibility goes into the animal. Parents are often mystified by the positive and "miraculous" changes in their children when they integrate with AAI activities. The expectations that the animals have the ability to sense what a person needs and respond to human moods and behaviors is extremely high. We don't really know what the animal is thinking when they are interacting with a client except for these interactions send useful information to aid in the therapeutic process. Animals' reactions and behaviors can aid therapists in meeting the criteria of their clients. It allows the therapists to make critical decisions throughout the process and avoids unrealistic expectations or goals. Nevertheless, the presence of the dog in a therapy session does not reduce the need for a professionally training therapist to conduct the session.
What is Animal-assisted Play Therapy (AAPT)?
AAPT defined by Rise VanFleet and Tracie Faa-Thompson in 2017 on page 17 in their book "Animal Assisted Play Therapy", as "the integrated involvement of animals in the context of play therapy, in which appropriately trained therapists and animals engage with clients primarily through systematic playful interventions, with the goal of improving clients' development and psychosocial health, while simultaneously ensuring the animal's well-being and voluntary engagement.". AAPT uses non-directive play and addresses six major areas:
2) Problem Solving
3) Empathy for the animal (Animal Welfare)
Thinking of a client that could benefit from our services? Are they animal lovers and could use a furry smile?