Sunday, July 28, 2013

Animal-Assisted Therapy

          I have been an animal lover since I can remember, so imagine my delight when I discovered the intervention approach called animal-assisted therapy (AAT).  As a volunteer for the Vanderburgh Humane Society, I participated in the pet therapy program at a local skilled nursing facility through which I offered the residents (and many times the employees and visitors) the benefits of positively interacting with one of the shelter animals, usually an adorable and very well-tempered puppy or small dog.  In contrast to these visits, which were purely for enjoyment, individuals participate in AAT in order to make progress towards established therapy goals.  For example, an individual may brush a dog in order to develop greater upper extremity strength, range of motion, and endurance.  Likewise, a group of students may interact with a cat and its handler in order to increase social interaction skills within the classroom.  Therapy animals are carefully screened and trained in order to offer a safe and effective alternative to traditional therapeutic modalities.  At the 2008 American Occupational Therapy Association's Student Conclave in Louisville, Kentucky, I discovered a volunteer organization called Animal-Assisted Therapy OT and PT Pups.  The following website offers a wealth of information about this organization as well as AAT in general: