Quality AAT can change lives
I thought I would share some things over the coming weeks about what makes quality Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) so great. I want to be able to help people understand what this approach brings to therapy which makes it different from other more traditional modalities, and why it is important to make sure your therapist and their animal are appropriately trained.
Engaging an animal in therapy sounds easy, but it requires the therapist to work hard to be aware of, and to manage, the multiple relationships in the room. There is the relationship between the therapist and the animal, the animal and the client and the client and the therapist, and if these relationships are not managed safely, the client can feel a sense of increased anxiety, get distracted from engaging fully in therapy or even feel rejected by the animal resulting in a negative impact on their sense of self-worth and value.
However, when the therapist is able to engage the animal and client together safely and with purpose, the outcomes can exceed anything a single therapist alone could provide.
The importance of safety
Safety is so important, and not just in relation to physical safety (which is another area the therapist must be trained in) but the psychological safety felt within relationships are crucial. This is especially important for those whose past experiences make it difficult for them to trust others and space where AAT can provide an invaluable resource for them to begin to trust and build meaningful connections again.
This is in part due to the ability for the animal to provide connection and acceptance to the client without any ulterior motive or judgement, and for those who struggle to trust or hold emotional scars from past traumas caused by those who were supposed to love and protect them, this experience of safety within a relationship is invaluable. Exposure to and participation in this type of relationship breaks down barriers built to protect the self from others and creates the building blocks required to heal and trust others again. But, in order for the client to gain the most benefit or impact from this experience of relational safety, the therapist needs to be skilled at recognising the animal’s and the client’s subtle cues and use these purposefully to support the felt sense of connection, acceptance and safety.
I will follow this post up in the coming weeks with more ways in which quality AAT can provide meaningful benefits to therapy but, if you would like to know more in the meantime, please feel free to reach out via phone or email so we can arrange a time to chat about how AAT through Insight Therapies may be able to help you or your child.