Volunteering and Animal Assisted Therapy

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the utilization of animals as a therapeutic modality to facilitate healing and rehabilitation of patients with acute or chronic ailments. Therapeutic modality refers to using the animals as a "tool" in much the same way as a peg board or walker is used, however instead of being able to work on just one goal, the patient is able to work on several at the same time.

Animal Assisted Therapy provides a fun and interesting way for patients to achieve their rehabilitation goals. The animals provide enough distraction to make the whole rehab process far more enjoyable, thus the patients are more likely to progress toward their goals. When utilizing the animals as a therapeutic tool it is possible to work on several goals at once.

For example., specific goals to be targeted could include: weight bearing, weight shifting, standing balance and range of motion. All of these are possible at one time utilizing one animal. Using the dogs in a retrieving capacity allows trunk rotation, reaching, crossing midline and left neglect to be goals targeted in one session.

If the primary focus of the session is memory, speech and cognition. Utilizing the animal, with a Speech Therapist, as a tool for memory functions such as naming the breed, or specific body parts makes the patient's rehabilitation far more enjoyable and many believe provides the catalyst for improving patient outcomes.

Puppy Day is also an important part of Animal Assisted Therapy. As well as working on each patient's specific goals just being able to relax and enjoy the frolicing of 8 week old puppies makes the time pass a little easier.

While the majority of Animal Assisted Therapy is goal directed, the importance of socialization must not be underestimated. The ability of AAT to change the cold, sometimes sterile, environment of a hospital into a warmer, more friendly environment can do wonders for the patient recovering from a traumatic injury or illness.

All animals in the program are throughly tested to make sure that they have a temperment which will enable them to work comfortably in a very stressful environment. Once the initial testing has been completed the volunteer team of handler and animal then undergo periodic training, in which they learn the specific techniques required of Animal Assisted Therapy volunteers.

For more infromation regarding Animal Assisted Therapy please call 972-524-6522 or contact us via email.
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