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Deeply Rooted in the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy

By: Odessa M. Stevens, ACMHC, CAAP, CCLS II

Since my childhood, pets have been such an integral part of my life. My earliest memory is of my little mouse, Mickey, clinging to dear life on the handle bars of my tricycle as we rode around the neighborhood. I cannot count the number of times that I have been cheered up after walking through the door at the end of particularly hard day, only to be greeted by an overly excited dog waiting to give kisses. These beloved pets taught me many important life lessons of love, kindness, selflessness, generosity, responsibility, trust and self-worth.

It is no surprise that over 43 million households in the United States own one or more dogs and over half of American households own some species of pet. It is reported that 63% regard their pet as a full-fledged family member. Animals are an important part of our social system. Thus, it is no surprise the research findings show positive outcomes highlighting the benefits from including animals within the therapeutic healing process. Benefits include improvement in an individual’s physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive development.
Here are a few to highlight:

Physical Health Benefits
 Reduces stress
 Reduces anxiety
 Reduces pain
 Improves blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability
 Increases immune system

Mental & Social Health Benefits
 Decreases several symptoms in a variety of psychosocial problems
 Improves relationships/attachment
 Increase self-efficacy, self-confidence, self-esteem
 Enhances ability for self-emotional regulation
 Fosters empathy and trust
 Improves communication and social behaviors
 Decreases aggression

At The Green House Center, we recognize the positive impact animal-assisted therapy (AAT) provides for children and adults. We utilize it in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities to achieve treatment goals. If you have not had a chance to meet our therapy dog, Honey, please stop by and say hello. She loves hugs and is one of the best therapists you will ever meet.