Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy, also known as pet therapy, is a unique way to help clients deal with feelings such as fear, distrust, rage, and aggression. The presence of an animal can help enrich interpersonal relationships and support those suffering from various mental illnesses. Our animal-assisted therapy dog, Mack, and his human partner, Lucas Mitzel, have been providing animal-assisted therapy for mental health for three years. Mack is certified to work with people of all ages and has earned his K9 Good Citizenship certification.

What Is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy (also called pet therapy) is a therapeutic intervention using animals to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy. Pet therapy results in positive outcomes and improved emotional well-being for people suffering from many conditions including:

    • Pet therapy for depression
    • Pet therapy for anxiety
    • Pet therapy for autism
    • Pet therapy for mental health
    • Pet therapy for Schizophrenia
    • Pet therapy for Addiction
    • Pet therapy for ADHD
    • Pet therapy for PTSD

Animal-assisted therapy for adults can also address dementia, neuropsychological conditions, and physiological disorders. Animal-assisted therapy for kids creates a special bond and increases trust. It can also alleviate the boredom kids and teens might experience during traditional sessions, making treatment more productive.

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Work?

Pet therapy has become an accepted form of treatment as it can accelerate the healing process. These friendly companions can help people regain their desire to live and experience feelings of joy. When used with other psychological therapies, pet therapy can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. There are over 50,000 therapy dogs in the US. A recent study showed Canine-Assisted Psychotherapy improves mental health outcomes in adolescents; reducing symptoms and improving therapeutic processes.

What Does A Session Look Like?

Animal-assisted therapy is an excellent option for children who are often more comfortable and relaxed with Mack present. Lucas structures therapy sessions to target your child’s therapy goals, using Mack to calm their anxiety and help them become more comfortable sharing their feelings. Mack provides comfort and reduces anxiety; making sessions more productive.

History of Animal-Assisted Therapy

The therapeutic power of animals was recognized as far back as the late 1800s by nurse Florence Nightingale. She found small pets reduced anxiety in children and adults in psychiatric institutions. In the 1930s, famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, found having a dog present assisted in his sessions. When he began using his dog, Jofi, at psychotherapy sessions, he believed Jofi helped signal tension levels in patients based on where he sat. When the dog was right beside the patient, they seemed relaxed, but when he was far away, they became tense.

Freud found many patients were more comfortable talking through Jofi, making it a good way to break the ice at initial appointments. Unfortunately, his findings were not discovered until after his death. However, in the 1960s, child psychotherapist Boris Levinson noticed his dog, Jingles, encouraged a nonverbal 9-year-old patient to communicate. He found similar results in other children, but his paper presented to the American Psychological Association was not taken seriously.

Luckily, once Freud’s papers were discovered, Levinson’s work, Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy, became more credible, deeming him the father of animal-assisted therapy. In 1989, the Delta Society, now known as Pet Partners, developed a certification program for animals used in therapeutic intervention. Today, pet therapy is available throughout the United States.

Next Steps

Book your animal-assisted therapy session with Lucas and Mack today.