There is nothing like the bond that a human can form with an animal. Animal-assisted therapy makes use of this important connection to work with people who struggle with substance or alcohol abuse, mental health, and more. It’s become a common form of alternative therapy at many facilities throughout the world.

Animal-assisted therapy has numerous benefits for people who enjoy spending time with animals. Are you interested in learning more about this form of treatment? Continue reading to learn what animal-assisted therapy is, how it works, who it can help, and more.

What is Animal-assisted Therapy?

Therapy modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy are an essential part of most treatment programs. These approaches lay the foundation for effective substance and alcohol addiction treatment. Recently facilities started incorporating alternative methods to supplement the work done with traditional approaches.

What is Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is one of these newer forms of therapeutic intervention. It brings animals into a treatment plan to enhance the experience of therapy. Using animals during therapy promotes positive changes in emotional, physical, social, and cognitive functions.

One meta-analysis took the results of 49 studies and found a positive outcome and improved well-being in people with behavioral issues. Another review revealed the benefits of AAT for treating people who struggle with addiction and alcoholism.

Animals encourage a sense of connection that some people in early sobriety struggle with. AAT can bridge the gap between a therapist and a client. Some clients find themselves more at ease when they’re with an animal. This can help break down walls that are otherwise difficult to lower.

Definition of Animal-assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy, or AAT, enlists the help of a variety of animals in treatment or home settings. Some examples of animals used for AAT include dogs, cats, horses, horses, or dolphins. The kinds of animals a specific program uses depend on the needs of their clients and the type of therapy used.

Emotional support animals are one example of animal-assisted therapy. People may keep a dog, cat, or another kind of animal as a pet at home. Emotional support animals provide purpose and direction to individuals who struggle to work through their daily lives.

Therapy horses are another common example of AAT. Some programs offer wolf therapy. Dolphin therapy is a revolutionary approach to animal-assisted therapy. Programs that incorporate larger animals like these are usually part of treatment at a drug rehab facility.

The goal of animal-assisted therapy is to provide a more comfortable environment for clients. It’s difficult for people to access their emotions sometimes, especially individuals in treatment for alcohol and substance dependence issues. Animals can provide a calming presence for these individuals to open up more than they normally might.

Why is Animal-assisted Therapy Important?

Traditional approaches to therapy like EMDR therapy are an essential part of addiction treatment. Effective treatment programs are not one-size-fits-all, though. Not everyone benefits from the same exact path or program. Including alternative methods like experiential therapy with animals is helpful too.

Animal-assisted therapy is important because it provides an avenue for those who struggle to connect with traditional therapeutic methods. Someone who has a hard time opening up in their one-on-one sessions might feel more comfortable talking during an AAT session.

AAT gives facilities more flexibility when creating individualized treatment programs for their clients. With such positive results seen in a wide range of studies, animal-assisted therapy is important for treatment facilities to offer as an option.

Dolphin Assisted Therapy | Hawaii Island Recovery

Who Invented Animal Assisted Therapy?

Formal animal-assisted therapy as we know it today started during the 1960s. Dr. Boris Levinson brought his dog when working with young patients with struggling mental health. He found they socialized better with his dog than other human beings. Levinson published a paper entitled “Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy” about his findings.

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association was founded in 1969 to establish safe therapeutic horseback riding guidelines. Then Elaine Smith founded Therapy Dogs International in 1976 to connect eligible individuals with therapy dog visits.

Animal-assisted therapy became more widespread as time passed but few still trusted the validity of the modality. The Delta Foundation was founded in 1977 to continue research on the connection between humans and animals. Soon after, in 1981, clinicians and researchers held the first conference on the human-animal connection.

The Delta Foundation published the first animal-assisted therapy book in 1996 which opened the door for more to adopt the method. Once Freud’s observations were discovered and translated, practitioners put more faith in the practice.

Today Dr. Levinson is still credited as one of the original pioneers of tested animal-assisted therapy. Increasing numbers of facilities make use of the practice today as more research reveals the benefits of the human-animal connection.

When Was Animal Assisted Therapy First Used?

Some might think animal-assisted therapy is a completely new concept. Today there is a wider range of animals in use for a growing number of conditions. Despite the credit Dr. Levinson received for his pioneering research on animal-assisted therapy, forms of AAT have been in use for centuries.

The first mentions of AAT were during the time of the ancient Greeks. They reportedly used horses with severely ill individuals to raise spirits. Later in the 1600s, physicians again used horses to help patients struggling with physical and mental health issues.

Florence Nightingale wrote about the use of small pets with both youth and adult psychiatric patients in the 1800s. She observed the calming effects these pets had on her patients which encouraged numerous informal studies on the use of therapeutic animals.

Dr. Sigmund Freud brought his chow chow with him to therapy sessions to calm patients suffering from anxiety. He also conducted experiments with the idea that animals could test the “truest character” in a person. He observed that his dog stayed closer to individuals
with low tension and stress but remained across the room from those with higher levels.

Additionally, reports from the 1940s outline the use of farm animals with injured or ill veterans during their recovery. They explained that the horses, chickens, and cows brought some distraction from memories of the war and their post-traumatic stress disorder. Working with the farm animals provided some peace of mind they weren’t otherwise able to find.

Animal Assisted Therapy vs. Animal-Assisted Activities

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) are often confused with one another. Both modalities use animals to help humans form a connection. Each option has a different treatment focus and priority in mind, though.

AAT is a goal-oriented therapeutic modality where the animal is incorporated for a specific treatment purpose. Animal-assisted therapy sessions take place in both individual and group therapy settings depending on the program. AAT is designed to promote direct improvement in either physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function.

AAA is not for therapeutic intervention specifically but more for education, motivation, or recreation. These activities take place under the guidance of a trained professional or volunteer and are aimed at enhancing an individual’s quality of life.

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What Kinds of Animals Can Be Therapy Animals?

A variety of animals have been used to work with people in therapeutic environments over the years. The oldest forms of animal-assisted therapy used horses. Then early psychologists brought their family dogs into sessions with their clients. As time passed, clinicians tried using different animals in therapeutic settings.

What Kinds of Animals Can be Therapy Animals

Today there are many kinds of animals that can be therapy animals. Horses and dogs are still in use along with cats, rabbits, and pigs. Some facilities even incorporate larger animals like dolphins and wolves into their programs.

There is no rule on the kinds of animals that need to be used for animal-assisted therapy. Different people respond to different animals. Some might benefit from working with dogs or cats while others find they connect with horses or dolphins better. There is an incredible scope for the possibilities of animal-assisted therapy.

What Kinds of animals can be Therapy AnimalsA

Animal Assisted Therapy with Horses

Horses were the first animals used in the earliest forms of animal-assisted therapy. During the times of the ancient Greeks, horses were used to raise the spirits of people with physical illnesses. Today equine therapy is widely used with individuals at addiction recovery facilities.

Horses are known for being emotional animals. They reflect the emotions that a person approaches them with. For example, if you’re angry and snatch the horse’s halter, the horse will usually pull away from you. They respond to your emotions in a similar manner.

People in recovery from addiction or alcoholism have a hard time identifying their emotions. They’ve used drugs and alcohol to cover up their feelings for years. When they come to treatment, they’re learning how to handle all the new emotions that are coming up.

Equine therapy essentially places a mirror in front of an individual. If they’re angry when they come to their animal-assisted therapy with horses, the horse will respond to those emotions. Then the therapist overseeing the session can help the individual uncover and work through their anger on the spot.

Animal Assisted Therapy with Dolphins

 A variety of animals have been used to work with people in therapeutic environments over the years.

Animal-assisted therapy with dolphins is a newer form of therapy. It’s not as readily available as other forms of AAT, such as therapy with dogs or horses. Hawaii Island Recovery is one of the only addiction treatment facilities in the world offering assisted animal therapy with dolphins.

Dolphin therapy takes clients out on the water to experience and spend time with wild dolphins in their natural environment. Addiction and alcoholism are isolating conditions that keep individuals from interacting with the world around them. This new form of experiential therapy helps people realize their place in the world and the importance of their existence.

Immersing clients in an environment that’s so far from ordinary encourages them to embrace their possible fear and nervousness of the unknown. It’s also an exciting activity that shows substances aren’t necessary for a life-altering experience. Although animal-assisted therapy with dolphins is still a newer type of AAT, it offers clients a transformative encounter.

Animal Assisted Therapy with Dogs

Animal-assisted therapy with dogs is one of the most common forms of AAT. It’s more accessible and people are often already comfortable with dogs. They are man’s best friend, after all!

Programs bring dogs into their facilities for use during either individual or group sessions. Therapy can be difficult at first because addicts and alcoholics in early recovery have a hard time accessing their feelings. Incorporating the calming presence of a dog can put clients at ease. This may make them more willing to open up to their therapist or the group.

Animal-assisted therapy with dogs can also help clients build trust with others. The isolating nature of substance and alcohol use disorder separates addicts and alcoholics from others while they’re drinking and using. When they first arrive at their treatment program they’re likely hesitant to trust others at the facility.

Animal Assisted Therapy with Bees

Another unconventional approach is animal-assisted therapy with bees. The use of bees for AAT is still very limited, used in only a few areas. Most people tense up and feel frightened around these insects because they don’t want to be stung. Facilities that incorporate bee therapy use this natural and understandable response to their advantage.

When clients are around bees they’re forced to slow down, focus on what they’re doing, and live in the moment. They pay attention to each small movement and action to avoid upsetting the bees. It encourages them to remain calm to make sure the bees stay calm.

Animal-assisted therapy with bees is not an approach you’d expect to see. Programs use it to work with at-risk youth, veterans, and more. There is still limited research surrounding the use of bees for AAT, though. As growing numbers of programs use bees as part of their animal-assisted therapy, knowledge of its true efficacy will increase.

Animal Assisted Therapy with Other Animals

Along with horses, dolphins, humans, and bees, there are a variety of other types of animals used for animal-assisted therapy. Cats are one of the most common kinds of animals used for AAT. They’re easy to work with and most people are at least somewhat familiar with and comfortable around cats.

Some facilities use other types of animals like pigs, birds, or wolves as part of their AAT programs. These options are much less common compared to programs that offer therapy with animals like horses or dogs, though.

How Animal Assisted Therapy Works

Depending on the facility you select, the type of therapy you’re in, and the kind of animal involved, there are a few ways animal-assisted therapy works. Three of the most common approaches used for AAT include:

How animal assisted therapy works
  • You visit an offsite animal-assisted therapy program
  • Your program brings therapy animals into individual or group therapy sessions
  • You keep a dog, cat, or another type of pet at home with you

The first two options are the most common ways animal-assisted therapy works when you’re in an addiction treatment program. You’ll visit an offsite AAT program if your therapy incorporates animals like dolphins, horses, or wolves. Animal-assisted therapy with dogs, cats, birds, or other small animals are more likely to be brought into sessions at your facility.

The goal of animal-assisted therapy is to calm and comfort clients during therapy sessions. AAT brings them into the moment while they interact with the animals. This is especially true for programs that use larger animals like horses. It’s hard to stay distracted when you have an animal asking for your attention.

It’s not easy to live with active alcohol or drug addiction. People develop a defensive layer to protect themselves as time passes. Another benefit of animal-assisted therapy is that it encourages these clients to let down some of the barriers they’ve built up.

Where is Animal Assisted Therapy Used?

Animal-assisted therapy is used throughout the United States. Specific types of therapy like dolphin therapy or wolf therapy are only available in certain areas. Programs that use horses, dogs, cats, and other small animals are much more common.

AAT sessions themselves take place either in the facility or at an offsite location usually depending on the type of animal used. Animal-assisted therapists can bring smaller animals like dogs, cats, or birds into facilities for individual and group therapy sessions. Larger animals like horses, dolphins, and wolves take place at off-site locations.

How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help?

Animal-assisted therapy helps clients in many ways. Think of the impact animals have on your life in general. Humans and animals can form an inseparable bond. Those feelings of unconditional love, companionship, and security transfer into the therapeutic environment.

Animal-assisted therapy isn’t as simple as playing with a dog or a cat, though. It is a serious, goal-oriented therapy approach that focuses on creating significant and lasting changes in clients. The animals are not assigned service animals either. They are used only for the individual’s therapy sessions.

Bringing a cat, dog, or another animal into the session breaks up the typical expectations of therapy. Clients typically expect a traditional therapy environment but animal-assisted therapy provides a welcome shift. It offers a buffer between the client and the therapist which may make it easier to open up during the session.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Activities

There is no specific type of therapy required for use with AAT. Clinicians can use different types of modalities while incorporating an animal into the session. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can both be used with an animal in the session.

Specific animal-assisted therapy activities depend on the program and the types of animals used. Dogs, cats, and other small animals are more commonly used during individual or group sessions held indoors. The animals help clients break down walls and feel more comfortable in the session.

Programs that use equine therapy bring clients to a specialized facility that houses therapy horses. There are different animal-assisted therapy activities that clients can participate in. Therapeutic riding, grooming, and managing stables are a few examples of the activities offered at equine-assisted therapy facilities.

Wild dolphin therapy, like the type used at Hawaii Island Recovery, brings clients out onto the open water. They get to observe dolphins in their natural habitat while under the observation of program clinicians.

What Are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy?

There are many benefits to using animal-assisted therapy with clients. As long as the client feels at least somewhat comfortable around the animals used, they can provide a new therapeutic experience.

What are the benefits of animal assisted therapy

The benefits of animal-assisted therapy begin with the lowered levels of stress and anxiety observed after petting a therapy animal. Research shows that it takes only about 5 minutes with a therapy animal for the client to feel calmer. Also, while stress and anxiety hormone levels drop, the levels of hormones associated with healing and wellness rise.

Again, animal-assisted therapy is a goal-oriented approach. Specific therapy goals depend on each person and the condition they’re seeking treatment for. It is an excellent option for people who suffer from anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions often cause the person to close off from others but AAT can help them open up.

Another benefit of animal-assisted therapy is the human-animal bond. Many people seeking therapy have trouble with trust and personal relationships. Working with an animal in therapy provides an avenue to work on these struggles in a safe environment.

Why Use Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is useful for those who struggle to connect with conventional therapy approaches. In the beginning, it can be challenging for some people to build a trusting relationship with a new therapist. Bringing an animal into the session can calm the client from the start and encourage them to open up more.

When animal-assisted therapy incorporates larger animals like horses or dolphins, therapists can observe how a client interacts with the animal. They can watch for any discomfort or nervousness from their clients then encourage them to walk through issues that arise right on the spot.

Animals are also very reactive by nature. They pick up on the energy that people approach them with. If someone is nervous or angry, the animal will respond accordingly. On the other hand, when a person is calm while approaching an animal, they’ll respond calmly. This offers additional insight for clinicians observing the sessions.

Is Animal-Assisted Therapy Evidence-Based Practice?

Animal-assisted therapy has a long history of use in therapeutic practice for centuries. Researchers only started conducting studies on its effectiveness during the past few decades, though. More studies conducted around the world continue assessing the benefits of AAT. It’s important to know whether animal-assisted therapy is an evidence-based practice.

Many published studies reveal the positive impact that using animals in therapy has on patients. One report analyzed the results of 10 different studies of animal-assisted therapy. According to the analysis, more than half of the included studies revealed that AAT led to a reduction in symptoms of depression.

The same study also showed a reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in half the included studies. Participants in four of the studies showed lower levels of anxiety. Looking at these results, it’s safe to say animal-assisted therapy is an evidence-based practice.

Why Animal-Assisted Therapy Is Effective?

Animal-assisted therapy is effective because it makes use of the bond between humans and animals. AAT shows that animals provide many benefits to patients, both for their mental and physical health. They also make a therapist’s job easier because patients tend to feel less apprehensive with an animal around.

When it comes to mental health, the effects of animal-assisted therapy include:

  • Lowers levels of anxiety
  • Helps patients relax
  • Reduces feelings of loneliness
  • Encourages mental stimulation
  • Offers a positive distraction
  • Lessens automatic feelings of resistance
  • Supports the therapeutic process

Animal-assisted therapy is effective for physical health, too, with effects like:

  • Encourages slowed breathing in anxious patients
  • Leads to lower blood pressure
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Allows patients to relax during sessions

The many positive benefits above are still only some of the many reasons animal-assisted therapy is effective.

Who Benefits From Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is beneficial when working with many different kinds of cases. Animals not only help people with physical disabilities and handicaps; they help people with mental illness, mental disorders, and more. Patients work with the animal alongside a therapist to provide an alternative approach to traditional therapy.

People benefit from animal-assisted therapy in multiple ways, too. Some therapists bring a small animal like a dog or a cat into a patient’s individual session. Other times an animal is brought into a group therapy session to work with multiple patients at a time. Some facilities provide services using larger therapeutic animals, like horses.

There is no single right way to offer this form of therapy. Clinicians look at each individual and their needs when determining which approach to use. They want to make sure their patients receive as many benefits from animal-assisted therapy as possible. Below are some of the conditions that AAT can help with.

Depression

People with various depressive disorders can benefit from animal-assisted therapy. From Major Depressive Disorder or situational depression, animals can help. Petting or caring for an animal allows the person to focus on something outside their mind for even a moment. Research has shown the positive effects of AAT for patients who struggle with depression.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is another condition that benefits from animal-assisted therapy. Animals are beneficial both inside and outside the therapeutic environment. People with PTSD may find it easier to open up during individual therapy alongside an animal. Animals are also used as service animals for some individuals who suffer from PTSD.

Anxiety

According to the study referenced above, AAT isn’t as directly effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety for all people. Still, animals can alleviate some nervousness and fear in certain patients. Again, effective treatment takes an individualized approach so some may find incredible benefits from animal-assisted therapy.

Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder

Animal-assisted therapy is now a common treatment modality for people with substance and alcohol use disorder. Individuals who struggle with addiction and alcoholism are often closed off from others. Many have a hard time trusting other people. They suffer from some of the conditions above, too. These people find plenty of benefits from animal-assisted therapy. AAT not only relieves symptoms but can help them build connections with others again, too.

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What Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Treat?

Clinicians use animal-assisted therapy to work with clients struggling with many types of mental health disorders. The calming effects of AAT make it a perfect form of treatment for most conditions. Unless a person has a fear of or anxiety around animals, they’ll likely experience positive effects with this form of treatment.

What does animal assisted therapy treat

Animal-assisted therapy is a helpful tool for people with all kinds of mental illness, from anxiety to PTSD, addiction, and more. One study shows that AAT improves the effectiveness of other forms of mental health treatment. Another review of 36 different studies revealed effects including stress and anxiety reduction.

Which conditions does animal-assisted therapy treat?

What does Animal Assisted Therapy Treat

Animal-Assisted Therapy for Addiction

Addiction, both alcohol and substance use disorder, are serious and progressive conditions. They not only affect people physically but psychologically as well. Alcohol and drugs cause serious effects on the brain. Long-term use forces a person’s brain to adapt to the steady flow of substances.

When someone first stops using alcohol or drugs, they have to re-adapt to living clean and sober. They often experience psychological effects leftover from their drinking and using. Some develop a mental illness as a result of their alcohol and drug use.

These individuals require extensive treatment for both their substance or alcohol abuse and their psychological struggles. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are common. They have difficulties connecting with themselves as well as the people around them. Recovery from these conditions includes more than staying alcohol- and drug-free.

Animal-assisted therapy is an excellent option for working with people recovering from addiction and alcoholism. Those who have a hard time trusting others often find it tough to connect with a clinician. Bringing an animal into the session provides a buffer between the client and their therapist.

Individuals recovering from addiction and alcoholism benefit from the connection that humans build with animals. This connection lays the foundation for working on relationships and learning to trust others again. Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities incorporate at least some type of animal-assisted therapy.

Animal-Assisted Therapy for PTSD

Individuals living with post-traumatic stress disorder have a challenging and life-consuming condition. The effects of their trauma linger and maintain control over their well-being, even years after the experiences occurred. PTSD leaves lasting effects until people seek treatment for their symptoms.

Though many different kinds of trauma can cause the condition to develop, symptoms of PTSD are intense regardless. Some experience symptoms that are more severe than others. Ultimately, PTSD affects a person’s ability to function effectively in their daily life.

Incorporating animal-assisted therapy makes use of the bond formed between humans and animals. People whose trauma stems from a personal attack like an assault often struggle to trust others. Working with an animal allows them to build a bond with another being. A clinician can then help the client start transitioning that sense of trust in other relationships.

Research reveals that animal-assisted therapy reduces symptoms of PTSD, including disassociation, depression, and cognitive difficulties. AAT also reduces feelings of loneliness which helps clients connect with other people.

Animal-Assisted Therapy for Anxiety

Animal-assisted therapy is a fantastic choice when treating people who suffer from anxiety disorders. These conditions are intense, overwhelming, and ongoing. Symptoms of anxiety affect nearly every area of a person’s life from their school to work in their home environment. The calming effects of therapy animals are perfect for these individuals.

People with anxiety disorders find that petting an animal encourages a sense of ease and relaxation. The animals also lead to a decrease in blood pressure which relieves some of their physical symptoms of anxiety. Working with an animal in a clinical environment is a good way for clients to feel less on edge during therapy.

Animal-assisted therapy with larger animals like horses is also helpful. Again, animals often mirror the emotions of humans. This encourages clients to actively remain calm while in the presence of these larger animals. They learn to connect with and work through their fears and nerves. When they’re at ease, the animal responds with a similar emotional state.

Animal-Assisted Therapy for Depression

One of the most common uses is animal-assisted therapy for depression. People with depression experience a wide range of both physical and psychological symptoms. Their disorder affects their mood, emotions, energy levels, enthusiasm, interests, and more. It pulls them away from their loved ones and life in general, disconnecting them from their world.

Animal-assisted therapy for depression can help in many ways. Bringing an animal into the session puts patients at ease and has positive effects on their mood. Working with an animal can also reduce stress and improve a person’s overall psychological well-being.

The human-animal bond is an important part of using animal-assisted therapy for depression, too. Depressive disorders cause people to feel disconnected from their life and surroundings. Sitting with an animal in a guided therapy session can help them reconnect with something outside of themselves.

Studies have shown that AAT not only improves symptoms of depression. It can also increase engagement and socialization behaviors in some people. Some people also showed improvements in their general functioning. Ultimately, incorporating animal-assisted therapy for depression improves the efficacy of treatment.

Animal-Assisted Therapy with Dolphins at Hawaii Island Recovery

Addiction treatment facilities around the country use AAT to treat substance use and other mental health disorders. Equine therapy is a popular option at many locations along with using smaller animals like dogs or cats.

Animal Assisted Therapy With Dolphins

Animal-assisted therapy with dolphins is a unique treatment experience offered at Hawaii Island Recovery. Few things in the world compare to the excitement of working with wild dolphins in their natural habitat. It’s so much more than swimming with dolphins, though. They are a unique but important part of the overall treatment process.

More About Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

No other facility provides AAT with dolphins in the same way that Hawaii Island Recovery does. We’re situated near an area in the sea that a residential pod of spinner dolphins visits each day. Instead of a forced, captive environment, clients experience the dolphins in their natural habitat.

We bring clients onto a boat and out onto the open ocean where the spinner dolphins spend their time. You have the chance to jump in the water and swim around with the dolphins in their own space. The majestic animals often swim up to clients, locking eyes, or even brushing past them.

Addiction and alcoholism causes people to close off from others around them and the world as a whole. They become hardened over time and find it hard to uncover their true emotional states. Dolphin therapy is unique in its ability to help individuals reconnect with the feeling they’ve shut off for so long.

They feel no judgment from the animals. Instead, the experience of being approached by a dolphin in its natural environment is unlike any other. Clients describe the overwhelming joy they feel when a dolphin chooses to swim up to them.

After your time in the water, you work through the emotions that came up while interacting with the dolphins. It helps you uncover feelings, emotions, and possible connections you might not have otherwise made. Your therapist uses these new cues to guide future therapy sessions during your time in treatment.

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Is Animal-Assisted Therapy Covered by Insurance?

Animal therapy is a fantastic option for people battling many different mental illnesses. How can you afford AAT, though? Is animal-assisted therapy covered by insurance? This is a great question. Before seeking treatment with AAT, you need to know whether your policy covers this form of therapy.

Every insurance company is different. Each policy has its own guidelines, too. Your policy might have certain criteria that allow you to receive AAT under specific circumstances. You won’t know whether animal-assisted therapy is covered by insurance until you call to find out.

Reaching out to your insurance company is the best way to learn what your individual policy covers. You can also fill out an insurance verification form to have a qualified admissions specialist reach out to your insurance company. They’ll determine whether animal-assisted therapy falls under your policy.

Even if animal-assisted therapy isn’t covered by insurance, there are ways you can still receive the help you need. Animal-assisted therapy can lead to incredible benefits when combined with traditional forms of therapy. Bringing an animal into the session provides positive support that can change the direction of a session.

Who Are Animal-Assisted Professional Therapists?

Any therapist can bring an animal into their office and call it animal-assisted therapy. True animal-assisted therapy requires official training and certification, though. When conducted properly, AAT is a serious form of treatment that amplifies the benefits of traditional therapeutic methods.

The American Counseling Association’s Governing Council created a set of best practices for counselors who incorporate animals into sessions. AAT is not simply a time to play with an animal under the observation of a therapist. The ACA stresses that animal-assisted therapy is an intentional, specialized therapeutic approach.

Bringing an animal into a session adds an element that not all therapists are capable of handling. You want to make sure you find a professional animal-assisted therapist when looking for AAT. Therapists who have the appropriate counseling certifications, along with a certification for AAT, will be your best option.

Find a therapist who specializes in animal-assisted therapy if you want to receive the best care possible. For example, the wild dolphin-assisted therapist here at Hawaii Island Recovery focused her undergraduate research on the impacts of therapy with dolphins. When you participate in AAT at Hawaii Island Recovery, you’re working with a professional.

Where to Find an Animal-Assisted Therapy Rehab Center

Are you looking for the best animal-assisted therapy rehab center? AAT is an incredible approach to therapy, especially for those recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. Finding a facility with a qualified animal-assisted therapy professional is important. How do you know where to look?

Hawaii Island Recovery offers the best animal-assisted therapy program in Hawaii. Our dolphin-assisted approach is unlike any other in the country. You get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with wild dolphins in their natural environment. With the help of our certified animal therapist, the transformative experience will change your recovery.

Would you like to find out more about animal-assisted therapy and other programs available at Hawaii Island Recovery? Contact us today at 877-721-3556 or fill out an online request form. We’ll reach out to you and answer any questions you may have about treatment, insurance, or anything else you might need.

We understand the cycle of addiction and alcoholism. We know the pain you’ve experienced. But we also know how to help you escape that cycle and remain alcohol- and drug-free. You never need to use substances again. We’re here to help. Give us a call today.

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