Animal Assisted Interventions: An insight.
While working with animals in the field of mental and physical wellness, the knowledge of both AAT as well as AAI are important, doesn’t matter which specific field one wants to pursue in future.
AAT and AAA fundamentally are different from each other bust some of the aspects complement each other as well. AAT, i.e., Animal Assisted Therapy primarily focuses on improving quality of life in terms of social, mental and cognitive aspects whereas AAA, i.e, Animal Assisted Activities focuses on improvement of physical and lifestyle expenses where mental health and well-being are added benefits. The 2 most important factor differentiating between AAA or AAT are:
- Health being a holistic matter
- The method of therapy
It is important to note that the no animal is specifically labelled as AAT animal or AAA animal. AAT has the following attributes:
- Goal directed process.
- Animals draw out specific response
- Nature of role more important than specific training of animal
- There are different types of trained therapists and therapies AAA has the following attributes:
a. Specifically trained animal
b. Helps improve mood of the person and spread positivity
c. Offers physical support and along with natural and emotional support
d. Promotes socialization
Example: An animal with a handler may visit a residence where a tragedy has happened to calm down the family without the presence of a therapist will be considered as AAA, whereas an animal with a trained therapist when visits a home of an autistic children to improve cognitive functions, will be considered as AAI.
From the above understanding of AAA and AAT, what we understand is, that in both the scenarios, it’s our emotional state which ends up getting affected as well, in a positive way. As per layman’s definition, an emotion simply means ‘a strong feeling such as love, anger, fear, etc.’, but it is a lot more complex than that. Emotions are an indication of our feeling and often drives our physical actions as well. There are a lot of famous theories on emotions but the 2 most important are by Paul Eckman and Robert Putchik. Emotions can be understood the best by its subjective, physiological and emotional responses.
The amount of influence pets have on our emotional state is way off the charts. Only once we have a pet, we realize how they drive our emotions in day to day life. From something very basic like coming home to a happy dog with wagging tail or something complicated like brushing a horse, it all affects an emotional state, rather improves it, by giving us a sense of unconditional love as well as personal achievement. Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a brand-new Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School and the Angell Animal Medical Center, delves into the many ways that dogs can improve the lives of humans. This report also covers the pet adoption process, canine nutrition, and ways to benefit from canine contact even if you’re not a pet owner. With the guidance offered in this Special Health Report, owning a dog can be one of the most physically and emotionally rewarding relationships you’ll ever experience. It can be concluded that animals, despite their physical assistance role, do always provide emotional support and other health benefit such as low BP, low stress levels, lower depression, lower cholesterol, etc.
Coming from a country where there is hardly any focus on stress and mental wellness, which if not treated on time, develops in depression, my area of Animal Assisted Intervention is AAA which focuses on improvement of mood, offer friendship, help in socialization, natural emotional support, fight daily pressure, in stressful environments, such as the IT sector of India. We have dogs going to IT companies for stress reduction activities and employee engagement activities of the software-based employees who often don’t have fixed working hours and deal with high level of work stress. I believe that a presence of a happy dog in such environment can make a lot of difference in the lives of these people by improving their mental state. What I found most interesting about this course is the use of different animals in different types of therapies and specially the last module which emphasizes on how it is equally important to make sure that the animal’s mental and physical health is also not compromised during AAT & AAA. Most of the volunteers need to be aware about the signs of stress in animals when working on field. Because at the end, the animal and the human both should win from the activity.