Animal-Assisted Services can help with the prevention and management of mental illness, disease, disability and suffering for people of all ages, and in many settings.
These types of services are goal-directed programs 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. It 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 services and it’s important to note the distinctions.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) includes therapeutic and clinical services that incorporate animals into the therapeutic assessment and treatment process. AAT is delivered by qualified allied health and medically trained professionals (such as mental health workers, psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists, social workers, psychiatrists, general practitioners (doctors), speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists).
AAT incorporates trained animals as part of a therapeutic plan delivered. AAT can also include untrained animals if facilitated by trained therapists, for example observing a herd of horses. Health care professionals are trained to facilitate specific AAT treatment plans and measurable goals and outcomes must be documented.
AAT is designed to promote health and well being, and support improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function. AAT is provided in a variety of settings, and may be delivered in individual, couple, family, or group programs. AAT includes programs such as Animal Assisted Psychotherapy, Hippotherapy (therapeutic riding delivered by registered physiotherapists, occupational therapists or speech therapists).
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 are trained in their field of expertise to facilitate specific learning outcomes. Can include corporate coaching, leadership, team building, personal development and self management.
Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) consists of therapeutic animal visits by a trained handler / animal team to people in hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities and other institutions to alleviate stress, depression, pain management and to provide therapeutic relief. These visits are therapeutic in nature and handlers may be volunteers who may not hold any professional qualifications.
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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