Simply taking your Sheltie to visit patients at the hospital is so-o-o yesterday.
Not that it isn’t still a delightful thing to do. But, as U.S. News explains:
These days, animals are being involved in human therapy in innovative ways that depart drastically from traditional notions of animal-assisted therapy.
Companion animals are playing a larger-than-ever role in psychotherapy, physical therapy and crisis response. And different kinds of animals have different roles. For example, cats and parrots are especially helpful to people who tend to act out because of aggression or impulse control issues. As Bill Kueser of the Delta Society explains:
“The animal will stay near that person until the person starts upsetting the animal, and then they’ll move away. The doctor then can point out the effect the patient’s behavior had on the animal. They seem to be able to work through aggression issues more effectively that way.”
Troubled teens get help from horses. Dogs become a replacement for anti-anxiety medication with patients waiting to have an MRI. And dogs play a particularly valuable role in helping crisis responders to talk through the stress they’ve been experiencing:
“They don’t want to show stress. They want to find their buddies,” [Amy Rideout of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response] said of the 9/11 responders. “Many knew something was wrong, but they didn’t want to talk to a mental health professional about it.”
But when a therapy dog accompanied the therapist, the responders tended to open up more frequently. “The dogs made a bridge between the mental health professional and the person,” she explained.