Animal-assisted therapy, animals as therapy

Animal assisted therapy and support measures

Definition according to ESAAT:
"Animal-assisted therapy" includes deliberately planned educational, psychological and socially integrative offers with animals for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly with cognitive, socio-emotional and motor impairments, behavioral disorders and funding priorities. It also includes health-promoting, preventive and rehabilitative measures.

Animal-assisted therapy takes place in individual and group settings.

The basis of animal-assisted therapy is the relationship and process design in the relationship triangle client – animal – reference person. Animal-assisted therapy includes methods in which clients interact with animals, communicate about animals or work for animals. The implementation is goal-oriented based on a clear process and topic orientation taking into account animal ethical principles with subsequent documentation and well-founded reflection.

General goals of animal assisted therapy are
  • restore and maintain physical, cognitive and emotional functions,
  • the skills and abilities to execution to promote activities and actions,
  • to promote the inclusion in the respective life situation and
  • improve subjective well-being.

This is to be achieved, that the individual can act and participate in different areas of life according to his abilities.

Based on the indication, the specific goals of animal-assisted therapy are based on needs, resources and the type of disorder as well as support needs of the respective client.

Animal-assisted therapy is closely related to other related scientific disciplines such as psychotherapy, psychology, medicine, education, ethology and veterinary medicine.

Animal-assisted therapy is carried out by a specialist with specialist training in animal-assisted therapy and continuous further training. Only those that meet the criteria of the ESAAT, are accredited by the ESAAT and include at least 60 ECTS are considered as specialist training courses. Depending on the animal species used, further animal-specific training must be completed at least in accordance with the basic training of ESAAT. Continuous specialist training in animal-assisted therapy comprises at least 16 hours in two years.
Animals help people in a wide variety of areas, and numerous improvements can be achieved in patients through the use of animal-assisted therapy or animal-assisted support measures. Animals give people the feeling of security, warmth and tenderness, love and affection. The animal strengthens the feeling of togetherness in a community, communication is promoted.

Animal-assisted therapy is a scientifically recognized method.
numerous studies prove this, successes prove it.

Improvements that can be achieved through animal-assisted therapy:

  • Patients respond better to medication.
  • Blood pressure and pulse rate are reduced.
  • A general calming effect occurs.
  • The mental abilities of the patients are improved, an improvement in memory performance can be achieved
    Speech disorders are reduced because inhibitions towards animals are less.
  • An improvement in depressive moods occurs.
  • A general activation and raising of the state of motivation can be achieved.
  • Communication is encouraged.
  • The social contacts between the patients and with the nursing staff are improved.
  • The physical rehabilitation of the patients is promoted, fine motor skills and gross motor skills are improved, e.g. a painless expansion of the finger muscles can be achieved.
  • The responsiveness and learning ability of people with disabilities can be increased.

Possibilities of use:

  • in heart attack patients
  • in stroke patients
  • in patients with speech and movement disorders
  • in Alzheimer’s patients
  • in children with physical and / or mental disabilities
  • in children with behavioral problems
  • in patients with depression
  • in patients with chronic pain conditions
  • rehabilitation after accidents
  • in drug addicted patients


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Christina Cherry
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