Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP)
Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP) is an experiential modality that partners with animals during the therapeutic process. This treatment approach emphasizes the attachment bond created during human-animal interactions and provides numerous psychological and physiological benefits for patient recovery. While improved mood and reduced anxiety tend to be consistent results with Animal Assisted Psychotherapy, there are numerous additional mental health benefits, including:
- Decreased stress levels
- Reduced feelings of anger
- Improvements in relational experiences
- Improvements in attachment wounds
- Improvements in emotional regulation
- Increase feelings of self-worth
- Improvements in emotional intelligence
- Improved social interactions
- Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
- Rise in the release of endorphins
- Improvement in patience and trust
- Verbalized sense of empowerment
Individuals who perceive hostility or disregard from other humans or who have experienced trauma may accept an animal's non-judgmental and unconditional affection and attention instead. Studies of AAP demonstrate these results in nearly all participants, regardless of age, the duration of the session, or the severity of symptoms. Bay Area Counseling & Consultation, LLC. offers Canine or Equine Animal Assisted Psychotherapy to patients benefitting from this experiential modality.
Canine Assisted Psychotherapy combines traditional therapeutic approaches and relational approaches in partnership with the practice Therapy Dog, Leona. Leona (Lee-Lee) has several years of AAP work and has completed multiple training programs to help build her emotional agility and ensure therapeutic manners while in session. Most sessions are conducted outside and include somatic work, breath work, attachment work, problem-solving skills, and establishing boundaries. Lee-Lee is a generalist in her work and does not display any adverse countertransference with any disorder or population. Leona and handler Courtney Jones, LCSW-C, CCTP conduct all Canine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions. The duo have been trained together and are certified through Therapy Dog International.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is conducted at Dun-Pikin Farm with several Equine Partners: Tammy, Lilly, Chester, Marley, Dublin. Several providers at BACC utilize EAP in their practice and are certified through the Awakening With Equines program or PATH. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy addresses treatment goals using collaborative efforts among a horse professional, a licensed therapist, the horse, and the patient. Sessions include hands-on activities with Equine partners and processing feelings, behaviors, and patterns. In EAP sessions, patients interact with Equines on the ground and use nonverbal communication, problem-solving, coregulation, mindfulness practices, and creative thinking to address various mental health symptoms. Because horses are prey animals, they are incredibly intuitive and sensitive to their environments and the emotional state of the humans around them. Due to their biology, equines provide honest and non-judgmental feedback regarding what is happening emotionally and behaviorally for patients. Horses do best when the humans with them are honest about what they’re experiencing, which can help participants be present and connect more deeply with what’s happening to them.
The Animal Assisted Psychotherapy process is solution-focused and considered a short-term or brief approach designed to activate the patient's healing resources and assisted with therapeutic gains. This work provides a context for patients to learn about themselves and connect to their stories in a way that often is not possible in traditional therapeutic practices. Patients' meanings to particular activities or interactions during Animal Assisted Psychotherapy can yield insights into patterns of behavior and relationship to self and others.
Please reach out if you would like additional information regarding the benefits of Animal Assisted Psychotherapy.
Listen to Courtney Jones, LCSW-C, CCTP highlight the benefits of EAP on the Recovery Collective's Podcast: A Therapist, A Buddhist, and You featuring Luke DeBoy, LCSW-C, CAC-AD and Zaw Maw, Theravada Buddhist Practitioner/ Meditation & Life Coach.