Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy

Very few people can resist petting an adorable puppy or snuggling a kitten and while that can be part of animal assisted therapy, this growing field of psychotherapy is much more!

When I explain it to people, I refer to the animals as my “co-therapists”.

In teaching terms, it is like having two teachers for one class. The animals are a vital part of a goal focussed  treatment plan for you. 

In official terms,  Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic treatment that integrates animals with intention and purpose into psychotherapy, with interventions designed to benefit the cognitive, social and emotional functioning of the client. (Fine, 2010) 

Leslie Stewart, an assistant professor of counseling at Idaho State University, has this to say:“Animal-assisted therapy is a greatly misused and misunderstood term both in the industry and in the public,” Stewart said. “To truly be animal-assisted therapy, it’s got to be a goal-directed intervention that’s directly tied to a client’s treatment plan. And it has to be conducted by a provider who is appropriately trained or certified in their health care human services profession.

While we see  many wonderful examples of animals working positively with humans such as when they visit schools or seniors homes, these activities as referred to as animal assisted activities and the associated humans are often not mental health professionals and the activities are not part of a therapeutic plan.


Another important aspect of AAT is the healing power of touch and to be touched, dogs and horses in particular seek touch and like to touch also.  The soothing impact of petting or grooming creates a lasting experience for the client and helps foster healing from the pain of grief and loss.

The benefits of animal assisted therapy are well documented and the research fully supports the integration of animals into counselling. Therapy animals are excellent role models because they are attuned to clients shifting energy, breath, and movement and they provide us with a deeper understanding of emotional processes.

Here is an article that may help to explain it further and does an excellent job outlining the benefits.

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Questions and answers about Animal Assisted Therapy:

Animal Assisted Therapy FAQ's

Unfortunately, due to insurance regulations, you are unable to bring your own animal to therapy.

Yes, there is. We will go over all of that before your first session.

It may be .Check and see if your extended health benefits cover the services of a registered clinical counsellor.

Yes, I have taken extra training and several post graduate degree courses through Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado and through Dreamcatcher Academy in Alberta. In addition, I  traveled to both places to participate at their facilities in their Animal Assisted Intensives. I am currently finishing my Pro- EFW certification through Healing Hooves in Cremona, Alberta to expand my work with horses which has been a 2 year process. 

I am game to go most weather, but if it is extremely inclement or unsafe, we will reschedule, change to a phone or a skype session or move the session indoors.

As you will be working with animals and likely outdoors for much of the session, wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move around in. Only close toed shoes are allowed during sessions.

Yes, that is often the case that more than one animal is integrated into a treatment plan. 

The animals range from small (guinea pigs to horses and cows) and through discussions and explorations we will determine the animals that may best meet  your therapeutic needs.