Anita and myself have been trialling Animal Assisted Therapy at the practice with some very pleasing feedback from our families. So much so, the practice is now officially offering Animal Assisted Therapy.
What is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy has various definitions depending on who you talk to and how it is applied. Some people define Animal Assisted Therapy as interventions where the animal and trainer intervene in a way to directly improve a child’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. The Animal Assisted Therapy in our practice will be more like ‘Animal Assisted Activity’ where an animal is present at therapy to enhance the safety and security of the therapy space, and optimise rapport with the therapist.
How are animals used at the practice?
Currently, during some of our sessions, we provide animals (e.g., cats, dogs and bearded dragons) to improve rapport and motivation for children’s therapy whilst providing evidence based psychological intervention at the same time.
Does Animal Assisted Therapy really work?
Here at Dr Emma Butler and Associates, we are committed to evidence based treatment which means we use psychological treatments that are proven to be effective by scientific evidence. At present, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting Animal Assisted Therapy as a standalone treatment. However, the research does support that presence of animals can improve rapport and motivation for therapy. Some studies have even shown that the presence of animals during therapy can reduce elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and reduce heart rate, helping a child to feel more relaxed and at ease during sessions. Our clinical experiences with the animals in the last 12 months have certainly been consistent with these findings. Given the popularity of the animals in therapy, and that we have noticed that the animals really do enhance our treatments, we have decided to routinely offer Animal Assisted Therapy at the practice.
Dates and Therapists:
Emma has two therapy cats: Thomas and Otto who are very friendly, playful and cuddly Tonkinese cats. These cats will be available on Thursdays. Please note, if you are allergic to, phobic or dislike cats, dogs, or reptiles we can have the animals out of room when you are there.
Bearded Dragons – Coming Soon!
Despite their spiky appearance, adult bearded dragons that have been raised and handled by humans are docile and placid reptiles that are very happy to just hang out on your shoulder where it is warm and up high. They can also be very funny and interactive with endearing behaviours such as arm waving and head bobbing. They are great animals to assist with therapy, but also good companions to help people manage mental illness. We are currently raising and training bearded dragons that will be available for therapy with children next year.