The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy in Occupational Therapy Prepared By Stephanie Reid
What is Occupational Therapy? Occupational therapy is a holistic form of therapy that focuses on improving a patient’s abilities to perform every day task that encompass the job of living. As an Occupational Therapy practitioner our focus is to help improve the patient as a whole person including all physical, emotional and social aspects.
What is Animal Assisted Therapy? Animal Assisted Therapy also known as pet therapy or AAT is the therapeutic use of animals to help improve the functioning abilities of the patient.
History of the use of Animal Assisted Therapy in Occupational Therapy. The use of Animal Assisted Therapy can be traced back to the ninth century where disabled individuals learned to care for farm animals as part of their daily living skills. In 1792, The York Retreat, an institution for the mentally ill, also used animals as part of therapy by teaching their patients to care for them.
Animals have long been considered therapeutic companions and have proven beneficial to the mental, physical and social well-being of humans.
Physical Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy Research has shown that therapy combined with the use of animals can help benefit the patient in a number of ways including lowering blood pressure, lowering stress hormone levels and cholesterol levels, improving respiratory patterns, improving oxygen levels, decreasing episodes of pain, and decreasing depression.
Equine therapy also known as Hippotherapy is a specialized Animal Assisted Therapy that utilizes horses to help improve posture and balance which can help with movement disorders and tactile stimulation for those with sensory processing disorders.
Emotional Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy Some of the emotional benefits of animal assisted therapy include the reduction of stress, fear, grief and loneliness as well as improving confidence and self- image.
Social Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy Animals can be a useful tool for helping to initiate conversation as well as encouraging communication between patient and therapist.
“Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” George Eliot
The love and affection of therapy animals has proven to have a positive effect on patients of all ages and conditions within various settings making them a valuable resource that should be considered for use in the Occupational Therapy practice site.