Animal Assisted Therapy

Basically, animal-assisted therapy (AAT), means including animals in therapeutic work with humans. Animals can be included in a number of ways, such as counselling, teaching/education, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, disaster relief, as humorous relief, as comfort and to assist in learning life skills, social skills or other key behaviours, to name just a few.


When a professional counsellor or pyschologist incorporates an animal into their therapeutic practice, they find ways of allowing the animal to extend and facilitate their goals, based on their training and theoretical orientation.

A counsellor, for example may incorporate the use of a dog to explore and draw out issues of anger or attachment. Physical therapists may use handling of a small animal or grooming a horse in a motor-skills programme, or dog walking in a fitness or strength-training programme.


Therapeutic Goals

In animal-assisted therapy, the therapist will identify the therapeutic or clinical goals, and use the animal to help them achieve these goals. The Delta Society (USA) defines AAT as goal directed interactions with clearly defined and measurable outcomes. This distinguishes AAT from the less structured animal-assisted activities (AAA).

In both cases therapy animals interact with people to produce positive outcomes, however in animal-assisted activities the role of the animal is less defined and so is the outcome.

Animal Assisted Activites

Whilst AAT will have prescribed therapeutic outcomes, AAA may simply aim to achieve a positive environment or help an individual to feel good. This means that animal-assisted activities do not necessarily need to be overseen by a professional.


When people come to visit their adopted calf a wonderful exchange takes place between the cow and the visitor.

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The feel good vibe is something people want to share with the people they love.

Visiting a nursing home as a volunteer for example, may be defined as animal-assisted activities or AAA's, whereas running a social skills programme for at-risk youth may be considered animal-assisted therapy or AAT. There is also an increasing body of evidence in the use of animals in educational settings. 

Animal Assisted Education

Animal-assisted education or AAE is the term used to describe the use of animals to achieve educational goals. Collectively, these animal-assisted modalities are known as animal-assisted interventions (AAI). (Lead the Way Psychology & Animal Therapy Victoria)

 Dog AAT

Kids love reading to a dog and the dog obviously loves having a story read to them.

AAT reading

At Murarrie State School the students love having Hamish join in on their school work. Using reading to Hamish & Andy as an incentive, teachers have found even the most reluctant readers are keen to participate.

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