Animal assisted therapy is a goal-directed intervention in which our animals are an integral part of the treatment process. We supplement current goals that individual residents or groups of residents are working on. Animals can act as the social lubricant necessary to strengthen the relationship between the mental health professional and the individual, thereby enhancing existing treatment plans and achieving the client’s desired goals.
Animals can be utilized in a number of ways, including roles as social facilitators, symbols and metaphors for behaviors, objects of attachment, sources of support, instruments for learning, and transitional objects. Animal assisted therapy in nursing homes can be utilized with this specific population to decrease depressive symptoms, lower blood pressure, increase feelings of empathy and compassion, keep Alzheimer’s residents in the present moment and increase communication skills in stroke victims.
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