Animal Assisted Therapy

Unvaled Psychological has Brian on staff. Brian is an AKC registered English Lab who has already served thousands of client hours. Brian is a certified therapy dog and he comes to work with Dr. Cutshall every day. Brian has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many of our patients already. Brian's official title is Chief Canine Officer and he serves at the pleasure of every person he meets.

The usefulness of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been illustrated in numerous case studies, research studies and peer-reviewed publications (McCardle, McCune, Griffin, Esposito & Freund, 2010). The research has indicated that our connection with animals, particularly dogs, is historical, neurobiological, social and emotional. The research on AAT has shown strong evidence that therapy dogs are helpful for multiple populations in a variety of contexts.

Counselors in an agency setting can utilize trained, insured and registered therapy dogs in individual and group mental health settings. Using these pets in these settings has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport, help clients to become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions (Perry, Rubinstein & Austin, 2012).

Essentially, dogs can be utilized in counseling in two main ways. First, there can be non-directive approaches where a dog is present within the therapy room, but not the main focus (Perry et al., 2012). In this method, the dog helps to build rapport with the counselor, connects emotionally to the client(s) and impacts the client or group by their presence in the environment. The second way that dogs can be utilized in the counseling environment is to have specifically directed interactions with the dog such as brushing, making to dog do a trick and/or petting the dog while talking about highly emotional issues.

Animal Assisted Therapy dogs (and their owners) go through very specific training before seeing clients. Therapy dogs must have an appropriate demeanor and easy temperament, and they must be trained and tested before achieving therapy dog status. A veterinarian screens the dog and before certification both the owner, and the dog, must pass a comprehensive exam that tests the dog’s skills and aptitude as well as the handler’s ability to control the behaviors of the animal.

Animal Assisted Therapy is NOT a billable service and no additional cost for having the therapy dog present will ever be charged.

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