So what is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is defined as a "goal directed intervention where there is a specific therapeutic end in mind, such as improvement of language skills, increased attention span or to increase awareness of sensation and body position where the animal plays a key role in meeting the specific criteria." (Gammonley et al., & The Delta Society 1997).
Animals can make us feel good!
There is much research-based evidence supporting the many benefits that interaction with dogs can achieve in promoting human health and well-being, and this form of intervention has been shown to be beneficial in addressing physical, emotional, spiritual and psychosocial aspects of recovery, as well as facilitating communication skills for people with communication difficulties (aphasia.)
For example, research has suggested that introducing a living animal into the therapy session can result in patients feeling "more at ease, more communicative and motivated to engage in therapy" (Boris Levinson - "pet-facilitated therapy"1969). Also simply stroking a dog has been shown to reduce high blood pressure (Odendaal J.S.J. 2000) and increase levels of Oxytocin (Johannes Odendaal and Roy Meintjes 2003).
Interacting with a companion animal, such as a dog, works at a holistic level for appropriate people and offers a person-centred approach, offering a rare additional opportunity for tactile contact and nurturing. Many stroke survivors suffer from depression, high anxiety, reduced confidence, poor motivation and low self-esteem. Interacting with a living being that is non-judgemental can be an uplifting experience, providing opportunities for the person to be an integral part of the treatment intervention rather than being a passive responder to rehab treatment.
For further information on the value and application with regard to Stroke Rehabilitation, please follow the link below.
The Value of 'Animal Assisted Therapy'
in Stroke Rehabilitation