ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is essentially therapy with an animal present. That animal may play a significant role in therapy or just be there as a calming and enjoyable presence. At Mindful Living, Lachlan (our therapy dog) and Madeleine (a Psychologist and Lachalan’s person and trained handler) work together to meet the needs of each client.

The presence of an animal in therapy lowers the stress hormone, Cortisol. It also raises a feel-good hormone called Oxytocin. So just having an animal in the room helps people feel better!

Another benefit is easing social interactions. Attention is focused on the animal more, at what he’s doing, playing with etc and can take the pressure off the client, especially in early appointments when everyone is still getting to know each other.

A therapy dog like Lachlan can provide physical comfort. His version of a cuddle is pressing up against your legs or even sitting in your lap (if you let him) and getting lots of pats. Having a therapy animal can also make someone feel safer in the space. If the animal is relaxed, the client may take cues from them and mirror neurons also fire.

More targeted therapy can include helping the animal learn new things. As the client learns to teach the dog, the client may experience frustration in a safe space and learn to work through this. They may feel like giving up but learn perseverance and satisfaction when the animal learns the new task.

AAT can provide subtle cues to the therapist. If the animal always puts a paw on the client’s knee when they are sad, even if the client isn’t saying they are or displaying any signs, the therapist may then know that something is going on for the client that is hard to talk about.

There are many studies that show a multitude of benefits of AAT including improving mood, emotional regulation and motivation, reducing anxiety, depression, aggression, and stress.

Madeleine, a psychologist at Mindful Living, is trained and experienced in Animal Assisted Therapy.

Call us on 1300 844 255 or email us at info@mindfulliving.com.au if you would like to find out more about how AAT might be able to assist you or someone in your life.