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Animal Assisted Therapy: Benefits of Animals in the Psychotherapeutic Process

Animals have been benefiting our lives since the dawn of civilization. Close relationships between animals and humans can be evidenced in cave paintings, at archaeological sites, and throughout art and literature. Historically, we have shared, and continue to share, a mutually beneficial relationship, in which our love for animals dedicates us to providing them with necessities such as food, shelter, medical care and MORE - and in return they provide us with acts of service, empathy, affection, unconditional love and MORE. They act as our confidants, keeping safe our every confession and deepest secret – kind, patient, never judgmental or bias, and always forgiving.

It’s not surprising that animals have made their way into the psychotherapeutic process. However, all the unique types of animals that have become allies in mental health treatment may come as a surprise! Today’s therapy animals can range from dogs, cats, and horses to birds, reptiles, and other small animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and even mice! Although dogs and horses remain the most common.

When we bond with an animal, we create a beautiful unspoken connection. This connection can help us to heal. Animal-assisted psychotherapy works to guide clients and animals through interactions that will help the client find healing, adopt desired behaviors, overcome obstacles, and improve mental and physical well-being.

Proven Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT):

• Decreased stress and lower blood pressure
• Decreased aggression and feelings of hostility
• Improved impulse control
• Elevated mood and self-esteem
• Increased confidence and feelings of empowerment
• Increased patience and trust
• Improved quality of social interactions and connections
• Increased healing and independence

Who Can Benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy?

People of all ages can benefit from animal-assisted therapy, and it can be used to treat a wide variety of mental and behavioral issues, such as:

• Inattention and hyperactivity (ADHD)
• Addictions and substance use disorders (SUD)
• Mood-related disorders
• Eating and food issues
• Grief and loss
• Trauma and PTSD
• Bipolar
• Depression
• Anxiety

Does HCBH offer Animal Assisted Therapy?

Mattni Becker, at our Douglas WY facility, currently offers Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Mattni also has a service dog that can be present during individual and group therapy sessions upon request, at that location. Other locations may have service dogs available.


 Photo credit: Diamond D Images

If you are interested in AAT, please reach out to your local HCBH location to check availability. If we are unable to provide animal assisted therapy in your location we will be happy to provide you a referral.



Photo credit: Diamond D Images

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