Is your Instagram feed full of cute kitten videos? Do you get distracted from conversations every time a puppy trots past you? Perhaps arriving home to an over-enthusiastically happy pet is the best part of your day? Animals can enrich our personal lives in many ways so it’s not hard to imagine why it may be beneficial to incorporate them into therapeutic interventions.
PsychMed is a strong advocate for animal-assisted therapy (AAT) – just ask our highly qualified feline therapists, Harmonia, Puck, and Snowman in our Seaview Downs Cat Therapy Room.
What is AAT?
A therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals into treatment plans for mental and physical health in a way that is safe for both the animals and humans involved. Dogs, cats, horses, and birds are most commonly used to complement the effects of more traditional therapies.
Why use AAT?
Research has discovered that interacting with animals has a number of positive mental, emotional, and physiological benefits, including:
- Reduced psychological symptoms of stress, like racing thoughts or mood swings
- Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
- Reduced anxiety levels
- Reduced feelings of isolation
- Fewer disruptive behaviours exhibited in treatment sessions
- Improved perceived quality of life
- Reduced likelihood of developing secondary mental health conditions
It could be argued that interacting with animals therapeutically is an exercise in mindfulness, which is a common tool in many forms of psychotherapy. Animals can generate a sense of comfort and safety while distracting us from distressing thoughts, emotions, or behaviours when we’re in the moment with them. There’s also evidence to suggest that building a bond with animals can help people develop communication, emotion regulation, and social skills while improving their sense of self-esteem and trust.
What does it treat?
The interrelated mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of AAT mean that it can be incorporated into treatment plans for a wide variety of issues experienced across the lifespan, including:
- Mood disorders like depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Addictive disorders
- Physical recovery, from some surgical procedures for example
If you’re missing an animal connection in your life, we encourage you to visit our Cat Therapy Room in Seaview Downs to check out what all the fuss is about. Call 7444 4260 to book an individual or group session – we’ll even take you through a guided meditation.