Animal Assisted Therapy

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Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a fairly old practice, but it has just recently drawn a lot of attention and interest. The Delta Society (as cited by Nebbe, n.d.) defines animal-assisted therapy as the use of an animal in a goal oriented intervention. AAT is provided and documented by professionals. Furthermore, it is designed to promote advancements in social, emotional, physical, and/or cognitive operation (Nebbe, n.d.). It is also important to note that animal-assisted therapy should always be an adjunctive intervention and not in isolation of other services (Fitchett, Granger, Helmer, Kogan, & Young, 1999). Almost any animal can be used in AAT as long as it is a pleasant, sociable animal. However, before animal-assisted therapy…show more content…
It is easier to practice with an animal because they will not argue or reject them. These techniques, learned with an animal, can then be generalized to other humans.

One specific type of emotional disorder, Conduct Disorder, which is defined by the DSM-IV (as cited by Gullone, 2003) as a constant and repetitive pattern of behaviors that violate the basic rights of others and other age-appropriate societal norms, is particularly targeted by animal-assisted therapy. It is thought that by teaching children with risk of conduct disorder (CD) to have empathy and concern for others, their developmental trajectories may be modified (Gullone, 2003). An animal-assisted therapy can be directed at re-focusing the child’s aggressive and dominating actions towards caring and gentle actions in a relationship free of rejection and full of unconditional positive regard. The child can form a secure attachment with another living being which will contribute to their basic sense of trust (Gullone, 2003). These lessons can then be transferred to human relationships.

Those with pervasive developmental disorders can be positively influenced by animal-assisted therapy. The American Psychiatric Association (as cited in Farnum & Martin, 2002) states that pervasive developmental
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