Looking for a change to the routines at your residential facility or clinic? Pet therapy has entered the mainstream as a care service and may have great benefits for your patients and clientele.
Pet therapy began its life in clinical work in 1961, although some claim it dates as far back as Sigmund Freud, notes Janet Eggiman, RN, MS, LMFT of Medscape® Today.
Today, it’s become more and more available and accepted as a treatment. Research cited by the CBC shows that psychological trauma survivors and the emotionally withdrawn are prone to opening up more in the presence of companion animals. Patients with injuries or limited range-of-motion syndromes show marked improvement in their motion therapy when working with animals. In addition, symptoms of loneliness are notably improved after spending time with companion animals. As more and more insurance providers and networks begin to value and compensate for therapies that recognize the mind-body connection, there may be a greater place for pet therapy in your clinic or residential facility.
How does a health care organization begin an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program? For starters, you may consult an online listing like The Natural Connection to see what trained, certified AAT organizations are available in your area. These organizations exist to help you begin and facilitate a program, and their leaders are eager to work with health care providers. For reasons from safety to liability, it is of the utmost importance to use a certified, experienced AAT organization’s resources.
Early steps to starting the program include developing documents toward clearly written policies and procedures; staff education about the proposed program; a plan for recruitment of volunteers and training; a plan for testing and training of potential therapy animals and a plan for implementing the program.
Generally, AAT organizations charge nothing to come to your facility and work with your residents. You may have your in-house practitioners establish goals for each participant, or you may run a more free-form scenario, often referred to as Pet Visitation.
Structuring decisions need to be made at the local level, but some recommendations include:
- Weekly pet visitation day, where residents/patients spend time talking with and touching companion animals, which may be commemorated with bone-shaped pen.
- More intensive, planned therapy with both a physical therapist and an AAT handler may be scheduled as a four-to-twelve week regimen, culminating with the takeaway memento of mug with your logo and paw prints on it, or a photo of the participant with a therapy animal in a dog lover pet frame.
- A monthly AAT workshop for outpatient clients may be scheduled and reminded with the use of bone magnets.
- Other one-day special AAT events or visitations can be held during open houses or other community events and promoted with totes, or animal paw bag clips.
Pet therapy has shown proven results and may be just the next offering your facility or organization can easily add to assist in patient care. Besides who doesn’t want unconditional love and attention?!