Animal Assisted Therapy
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Animal Assisted Play Therapy (AAPT) are counseling techniques that incorporate an animal into treatment. Dogs, horses, cats, lizards and even dolphins are being used as therapy animals but here at TCCH, Lila, a golden retriever/australian shephard mix is the only therapy animal.
AAT is conducted in many ways depending on client goals, the animal and the setting. Examples of AAT activities include: teaching a child to command the dog to sit, fetch shake etc. in a strong voice to improve self confidence, having the animal facilitate imaginitive play in order to bring to light sub-conscious emotions and having the animal present for petting in order to reduce stress and help the client express feelings, discuss problems or relate history. Many children (and adults) are anxious about participating in therapy so one of Lila's most important duties is to reduce anxiety (a function that studies have shown to be effective). She accomplishes this with her gentle, non-judgemental, caring nature. Because of the abuse in her past and her present status as an adoptee, clients with similar trauma history relate to her and her transformation from victim to healer.
Lila is included in treatment in a thoughtful manner, by Maria Curran, a licensed counselor and center director, to enhance facilitation of treatment goals. Most people have observed therapy dogs in a hospital, school or nursing home. A dog and handler may meet with patients, students and residents in order to raise morale, help with reading and increase socialization. These are actually examples of Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), although they may also be therapeutic.
Generally, children love pets, and therefore Lila's introduction into play therapy is a seamless one. Whether she is costumed as a super hero in a child directed drama, fetching a ball or offering a hand to shake upon command, she makes the therapy more enjoyable and contributes to productive treatment. If a child is allergic or scared of dogs, Lila can be removed to another office.
While Lila has been a fixture at the office for some time, she recently achieved certification as a therapy dog by Therapy Dog International and also successfully completed her Canine Good Citizen exam.
Lila was featured in an article in the November issue of Charlotte Magazine.