Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) and Assistance Animals (AA) can help with the prevention and control of mental illness, disease, disability and suffering for people of all ages, and in many settings.
AAI is a goal-directed intervention designed to promote improvement in people with intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive and psychosocial conditions in which a specially trained animal-handler team is an integral part. AAI is directed and/or delivered by a practitioner with specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her profession.
Treatment can take several forms and may be group or individual in nature. There are different types of animal-assisted interventions and it’s important to note the distinctions.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) incorporates specially trained animals as part of a therapeutic plan delivered and / or directed by an appropriately qualified health care professional. These animals are often referred to as a “therapy animal”. Health care professionals must be trained to facilitate specific AAT treatment plans and measurable goals and outcomes must be documented.
AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function. AAT is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature. The process is documented and evaluated.
Animal-Assisted Learning (AAL) incorporates animals and a facilitator in an ‘experiential’ learning environment to assist an individual or group develop skills or strategies to better manage their personal or professional life. AAL practitioners must be trained to facilitate specific learning outcomes and measurable goals.
Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) involves trained animals and their handlers visiting people in hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities and other institutions to alleviate stress, depression, pain management and to provide therapeutic relief. These animals are referred to as therapeutic or visitation animals.
Assistance Animals (often dogs “AD”) are trained to perform one or more tasks to help their handler better access public life and manage their condition such as physical impairment, diabetes, eye disease, hearing and vision impairment, seizures, asthma, life threatening allergies, people who experience episodic and serious medical crises (e.g. epilepsy, changes in blood pressure or blood sugar); and people with psychosocial conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideology and other psychological conditions.
Assistance animals have a legal right to access public places and are not to be patted or distracted as they are working animals. They support people in accessing various aspects of personal and public life. They can be trained in tasks to alert their handler of an oncoming medical episode or to assist with everyday tasks. An assistance animal must meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. Please do not ask the handler of an assistance animal about their condition.
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