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Certified Professional Practitioner for AAPT®


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a goal directed intervention in which an animal, meeting specific criteria, is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is delivered and/or directed by health or human service providers working within the scope of their profession. It is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function. AAT is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature. The process is documented and evaluated.

AAT differs from animal assisted activities, such as PAT dogs and visitation programmes, which are also extremely valuable but do not have the requirement that they be delivered by a trained mental health professional.  As the benefits of working with animals become clearer, other types of schemes are becoming increasingly common such as the use of assistance dogs.    

Some ways AAT can be helpful:-

  • Animals can teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills;

  • Help individuals develop social skills;

  • The relationship between therapy animals and the therapist can be a model for a healthy relationship;

  • The presence of animals is soothing and can more quickly build the therapeutic relationship for children, adolescents and adults.

  • Some therapy animals may have skills that make them able to pick up social cues imperative to human relationships. Therapists then can process that information and use it to help clients see how their behavior affects others.

  • Petting an animal has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, lower anxiety and lessen stress.

  • It has been shown that animals have the potential to lower human anxiety by simply being present.

  • Research shows AAT for Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (e.g. autism/Aspergers) exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog. (Martin & Farnum, 2015 Western Journal of Nursing Research)

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