Animal Assisted Therapy In A Mental Health Perspective

1420 words - 6 pages

Most people are familiar with service dogs and have seen them in action. Animal-assisted therapy is similar service animals in that an animal-human healing partnership is being created. However, the difference is that therapy pets are typically used to treat a mental disability whereas people with physical disabilities use service dogs to help them in many ways. Therapy animals are used in a wide variety of places, such as, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, therapy sessions, mental healthcare facilities, and even in people’s homes. These amazing animals are used on a wide variety of different disorders, but they are utilized mostly by people suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. For people with these mental health disorders, everything in live can be difficult and challenging, however with the help of animal-assisted therapy, their mood, motivation, and life can dramatically improve. Anyone who hears about these brave, loving animals soon falls in love with them. From a medical standpoint, there have been many successful studies and the support for animal-assisted therapy still continues to grow in doctors and therapists across the nation.
In 1961, Dr. Boris Levinson, a child psychologist, became the “accidental” pioneer for animal therapy. One day he left his dog, Jingles, alone with one of his young, uncommunicative patients. When Dr. Levinson came back, the child was smiling and talking to the dog (Altschiller 3). This just shows how quick and monumental the effect of an animal can be. He believed that therapy animals provided, “unconditional acceptance and love” and they offered “a secure and warm environment for children and other patients, increasing their ability to adapt better psychologically to other people” (Altschiller 4). Dr. Levinson later went on to research and write many papers on animal-assisted therapy. During this research in 1964, Dr. Levinson coined the term “pet therapy,” which is the most common moniker for animal-assisted therapy today. Today, volunteers train most of the animals used in pet therapy. However, these volunteers adhere to very high standards within the training of the animals in order to promote a safe, positive experience for the patient (Turner). Although mostly dogs are used, horses, cats, birds, rabbits, and other domestic pets can be utilized for animal-assisted therapy as well. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy can be enjoyed through ownership or from spending time with the therapeutic animals in routine visits or activities (Turner). Many medical professionals, such as Dr. Levinson, approve of and support the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy. Nonetheless, there are many doctors and psychologists who are still unsure of the effectiveness of the animals. “It is only in the last few decades that animal-assisted therapy has been more formally applied in a variety of therapeutic settings;” therefore, there is still a rather slim amount of research on exactly how effective the therapy...

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