What Activities Will I Try at Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal assisted therapy (AAT), or pet therapy, is a therapeutic approach involving animals to help promote emotional, physical, and mental well-being. The animals used during AAT sessions may include cats, dogs, rabbits, and horses. For this approach, a therapist incorporates a trained animal as a companion to supplement the rehabilitation and recovery journey through various activities.

How Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work?

The process typically begins with an assessment where the therapist can determine if animal-assisted therapy is right for the individual client’s needs and goals. Based on the assessment results, a suitable therapy animal is selected for the therapy session. The animals used in AAT undergo training to promote good behavior. During the sessions, the animal accompanies the therapist and individual in a controlled environment. Pet therapy may be helpful for reducing the anxiety associated with personal counseling sessions.

AAT session outcomes may depend on the individual, their issues, and the animal they are working with. The session may include petting, washing, or feeding the therapy animal. A therapist acts as a facilitator to assist the client in exploring and understanding the feelings coming out of their interactions with the pet. They may also try different animals to see how the client interacts with each one.

What Are Activities Used During Animal Assisted Therapy?

AAT interventions can include a variety of activities in their sessions, such as:

Exercising or Walking the Therapy Animal

Walking or exercising activities aim to help clients enhance their health, fitness, and overall well-being. When individuals participate in these sessions, they may play fetch or walk alongside the therapy animals. Exercising with animals may help boost cardiovascular health, improve stamina, strengthen muscles, and reduce stress.

Brushing and Grooming 

During AAT sessions, clients may help with cleaning the therapy animal. This could include giving them a bath, drying them off, and then brushing their fur. These tasks can help nurture solid therapeutic relationships with the animal companion. Petting and interacting with the therapy animal may also provide a relaxing and anxiety-reducing experience.


While therapy animals will have received specific training before the session, clients may help with additional training and practice. When clients join an AAT session featuring animal training activities, the therapist can assign the task of teaching therapy animals to follow different commands. The facilitator can guide clients in teaching the animals basic agility and obedience lessons. Clients can also help train the animal how to handle assistance tasks, such as helping people with visual impairments. Participating in these activities may contribute to better self-esteem, enhanced patience, and improved communication skills while also enhancing the animal’s ability to offer assistance.

Bonding and Interacting 

Interacting with animals can help clients strengthen their engagement and communication with the therapy animals. Individuals can engage in tasks such as cuddling, playing, petting, talking, and spending time with the animals. Bonding activities seek to help clients establish an emotional connection and a sense of attachment characterized by empathy, trust, acceptance, and safety. Therapists can use regulated interaction to help clients remain grounded during particularly difficult therapy sessions.

The emotional bond clients form with the therapy animal may offer them support and comfort while working through past trauma and difficult experiences. If an individual struggles with socializing, bonding with animals may help them improve their relationship skills. Pet therapy fosters a safe space for individuals to practice socialization and communication in a non-judgmental environment.

Who Can Benefit From Animal Assisted Therapy?

AAT can be beneficial for people of various age groups with different conditions, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Behavioral Disorders
  • Trauma

Pet therapy may be used to improve mental health and social withdrawal among adolescents. Some people going through rehabilitation for drug use disorder may also benefit from this therapy and potentially have a greater sense of well-being when working with an animal. 

Enjoy the Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy aims to improve mental health and make clients more comfortable during therapy sessions. It can also be used as a way for clients to practice social and communication skills. Therapists may recommend this type of therapy for individuals with many different conditions, including anxiety and depression. If you are considering animal therapy, discuss with your doctor how it may benefit your therapy treatment plan.

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