Have you been dealing with the effects of stress and anxiety lately? Or just been feeling a sense of loneliness? An animal-assisted therapy session with us might be just what you need to improve your overall wellness. Here’s what you should know about animal-assisted therapy and its benefits for functional medicine.
What is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic practice that makes use of the presence and interaction of animals to help improve your mind-body connection. Animal-assisted therapy sessions are performed under the supervision of trained handlers who can help:
- Determine treatment plans
- Facilitate interactions between patients and animals
- Provide recommendations and specific treatment goals based on patient-animal interactions
Animals are Used During Animal Assisted Therapy
Animals that are routinely used in therapy sessions can include cats, dogs, horses, cows, and even birds—they must be AAT-certified or receive documentation from a licensed veterinarian before being used in therapy sessions. Regular sessions of animal-assisted therapy have been shown to increase cognitive function, reduce stress, fight loneliness, and help you generally feel your best.
What Are the Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy?
Various clinical studies have shown that there are multiple benefits to regular animal-assisted therapy sessions. Interaction with animals can help:
- Reduce stress by decreasing cortisol levels and increasing serotonin production
- Decrease symptoms of pain, especially in patients with cancer
- Improve levels of happiness and bring on a sense of calm
- Lower anxiety levels
- Decrease blood pressure
- Improve mental health in patients with chronic depression
What to Expect During an Animal Assisted Therapy Session
If you’ve never had an animal-assisted therapy session, you might be wondering what to expect during your appointment. Next Level Medical Centers will ask you a series of questions regarding your current health status to determine if you’re experiencing any physical, mental, or emotional distress and whether an animal-assisted therapy session is right for you. During your first session, an animal handler will bring in an AAT-certified animal for your treatment, which can happen either outdoors or indoors. Most sessions typically last an hour in length, and the animal handler will always be present and maintain control of the therapy animal. You may start feeling a difference in as little as one session as most patients report the presence of an animal to be soothing, comforting, and helpful in reducing their anxiety.