The animal therapists at Elements Behavioral Health are among our most popular! At some of our centers, dogs and other animals visit regularly and may attend individual, family and group therapy sessions. The animals themselves are a joy to have around, but most importantly animal-assisted therapy can help to facilitate conversation. Some people are more comfortable discussing difficult topics while petting and looking at an animal, and sometimes animals are prime examples of important habits and skills for optimal health.
The presence of a therapy animal can have a relaxing effect on individuals who struggle with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, to name just a couple of behavioral health concerns.
Because our animals are social creatures, interacting with them gives people a unique chance to open up without fear of judgment. Animal-assisted therapy can help to:
Humans are able to express themselves through words, but an animal’s only way to communicate is through movement. Animals respond immediately to their surroundings, so if someone behaves in a way that the animal finds frightening or threatening, it will move away, giving clear and immediate feedback. On the other hand, when someone does something the animal finds pleasant, its reaction will be positive.
A therapist will observe an individual’s interactions with the therapy animals in order to provide commentary and insight into real-world applications. For example, the therapist might discuss what a therapy dog likes to do in its free time. The answers might include playing fetch or going for walks, or maybe even sitting on the couch during family movie time. The therapist can use these examples as a starting point for talking about the importance of hobbies and recreation for overall health.
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