These interventions can include everything from basic visits to nursing homes or hospitals to goal-directed therapeutic interventions with trained health and education practitioners including; psychologists, physiotherapists, teachers and speech pathologists.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
- The inclusion of animals in goal-directed activities overseen by a qualified professional.
- The inclusion of the animal is necessary for achieving the desired outcome.
- The professional is responsible for creating change with the assistance of the animal.
Areas of Intervention for Mental Health and Well-being
Nimer and Lundahl (2007) found consistent improvements in 4 main areas:
- Autism spectrum symptoms (e.g., positive social interactions and communication)
- Medical difficulties (e.g., heart rate, BP, motor skills & co-ordination)
- Behavioural problems (e.g., verbal resistance, aggression, violence & compliance with rules)
- Emotional well-being (e.g., anxiety, fear & depression)
Modes of change:
- Social lubricant effect – e.g., increasing likeability and relatability and providing ‘neutral’ icebreakers
- Physical illness and stress moderating effects – e.g., oxytocin release, reduction of cortisol etc
- Psychological and Psychiatric Illness – e.g., reduced anxiety, elimination of anhedonia in schizophrenia! And helping with treatment retention rates
- Behavioural Interventions – e.g., getting participants to train the dog, using the dog’s immediate feedback as a learning opportunity, motivation etc
- Autism Spectrum Interventions – e.g., social lubricant plus non-judgemental nature of the dogs provides motivation for engagement and compliance
- Academic & Learning – e.g., reading programs – reading aloud to a dog is less intimidating
- Dementia – e.g., reduced aggression & anxiety and increase in social behaviours and reminiscence.