Animal-Assisted Therapies involve the use of a dog as a therapeutic resource. With the aim of improving the physical, cognitive, emotional and relational functions of the people treated.
They can be used with any person or group with special needs. These can include, but not limited to people at risk of social exclusion, people with eating disorders, the terminally ill, people with mental health disorders, inmates and young people in prisons, people with functional diversity and women victims of gender-based violence. The therapies should always be directed by a health or education professional.
Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) include: Animal-assisted Therapies (AAT), Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal-Assisted Education (AAE).
1. Animal-Assisted Therapies (AAT)
These are goal-oriented interventions that are planned, structured, directed and carried out by health and education professionals. They must have specific goals and must be assessed like any other type of therapy. They are usually long-term programmes and always focus on the physical, cognitive, emotional and/or relational improvement of the individual.
2. Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA)
These are activities that offer recreational, motivational and educational opportunities. All of these, although they should not be considered therapies, can have a significant therapeutic value. They do not necessarily have to be directed by an educational or health team. The interactions are more spontaneous and do not have specific goals.
3. Animal-Assisted Education (AAE)
This refers to Animal-Assisted Therapies but in the educational setting. In this case, the sessions must be directed by an educational professional and like the therapies they must be structured and planned and have specific goals and measurements. The focus of the sessions is on achieving academic goals, social knowledge and cognitive functions. An example of AAE would be a reading programme.
In all cases, it is very important for the professionals who work with the animals to be trained both in the handling of the animal (training, behaviour, stress, emotional state, etc.) and in the pathologies or profiles of the individuals they work with.
Areas in which we work
Animal-Assisted Interventions can be used with any individual or group with special needs and these can include people at risk of social exclusion, people with eating disorders, the terminally ill, people with mental health disorders, inmates and young people in prisons, people with functional diversity and women victims of gender violence, among many others. However, we usually work in 4 areas:
1. Physical Area: These are all the activities aimed at the physical improvement of the individual.
2. Cognitive Area: Aimed at the memory and learning processes of the individual.
3. Emotional Area: Specifically, all the activities aimed at improving the expression of emotions and feelings.
4. Relational Area: All the activities where the relationship with others is worked on in order to improve interpersonal relations.
Benefits they provide
Since ancient times, humans have shown a strong bond with animals. The company of animals improves the quality of life of human beings, increases longevity and preserves physical and mental balance. It promotes recreation, reduces stress, and decreases the rate of depression. It obliges people to assume responsibilities, increases self-esteem, and, in most cases, improves family integration. The emotional exchange with the animal improves the emotional state of a person, making them feel accompanied and remain active because they must assume responsibility for its care, thus increasing self-confidence. Some of the innumerable benefits that animals bring are
- Increased desire and willingness to get involved in group activities and teamwork
- Increased self-esteem
- Increased sense of responsibility
- Reduced anxiety and/or feeling of loneliness
- Increased space for the expression of affection and feelings
- Increased levels of attention and concentration
- Overcoming fears
- Improvement of physical condition
- Reduced anxiety levels
- Stress relief
- Physical benefits such as reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, etc.