Careers in Animal Assisted Therapy, Education and Activities

What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Research has validated what every pet owner already knows: interactions with animals can reduce our stress levels and increase our sense of well-being. Anxiety melts away as we stroke our cat or play with our dog. Animals create enormous motivation in people of all ages and can be an integral component in the success of physical treatments and educational programs.

When animals are used for therapeutic purposes the activities are known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). When they are incorporated into teaching and learning activities it is known as Animal Assisted Education (AAE). Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), such as visitations with the elderly or shut-ins, are designed to improve human physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

How are animal assisted activities incorporated into other professions

Teachers

Animals are an obvious teaching aid commonly used as classroom resources and incorporated into lesson plans and reading programs. They are also used by school counselors and have been shown to help children improve self-esteem and overcome physical and mental challenges.

Therapists

In many types of therapy (physical, occupational, psychology, social work) animals promote interaction between the client and the therapist. Animal interaction can be a powerful motivator allowing professionals to more quickly achieve their goals with the client.

Eldercare

Therapy animals are widely employed in elder care to improve the quality of life. While clients may resist traditional therapy, they may eagerly perform related tasks with animals, such as brushing a dog.

AAT Volunteers

Many of those participating in AAA aren't professionals with specific client goals but work instead as volunteers to improve the quality of life for others. At ABI we can help you to help others, by providing the training you need to maximize your effectiveness.

Animal Assisted Therapy is a new field, poised for growth. As the research supporting the value of AAT has grown, so has the level of public and institutional support. The outlook for professionals employing AAT is extremely positive. For example, therapy and therapy assistant positions are projected to grow much faster than average for the next decade, by over 27% (source: U.S. Department of Labor). Animal assisted therapy, education, or activities are now used in a wide variety of careers.  These tools are used by many professionals such as: 

  • Occupational therapists
  • Therapy assistants
  • Recreational therapists
  • Counselors
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Teachers
  • Reading specialists
  • Program managers
  • Special ed teachers
  • Nurses
  • Nurses' aides
  • Residential coordinators
  • Physical therapists
  • Therapy aides

Many AAT professionals are self-employed, already working as counselors, psychologists, occupational therapists. Therapy assistants may be working with a licensed therapist or in a private practice. Program managers for animal assisted activities may work for rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, elder-care facilities, or hospitals. Educators may work in a public or private school system or work as independent contractors.

If you have a professional interest in Animal Training & Enrichment, you may want to explore one or more of these associations for additional information.

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