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How is Animal Assisted Psychotherapy different from “regular” therapy?

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All of our counselors and therapists have worked for many years with clients and use traditional counseling and psychotherapeutic methods to reach client's goals. So, in some cases the therapy will look much the same as a "traditional" session, except with AAP there is a friendly, calm animal in the room. Sometimes just the presence of the animal creates and facilitates an environment that is conducive to the counseling process. In other cases, the therapist will design specific interventions where the client and animal are interacting in some way to meet a specific therapeutic goal. For some clients, the presence of a therapeutic animal can facilitate communication and help ease anxiety or resistance. 

What is Animal Assisted Psychotherapy?

Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP) is a more complex form of therapy than counseling. All of the clinicians at AATPC are trained to provide both counseling and Animal Assisted Psychotherapy. For many problems, short-term counseling is sufficient. However for individuals or families who find they have patterns of dysfunctional behavior that are long-lived or have experienced trauma or addicitions, they may need a deeper form of therapy that helps change at a deeper level. Animal Assisted Psychotherapy can be particularly effective since it addresses the client's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Through working with the animals, clients are challenged to see, feel and act differently, and in more productive ways.

What does a session look like?

The initial session, or Intake, involves information-gathering for both the therapist and for the client. During this session the client will meet the therapy team, usually including the therapist’s animal partner. We believe that effective therapy is based on a strong, trusting, and comfortable relationship between the client and their therapy team. In the first sessions, a plan will be developed with the client that meets the client’s goals, and the therapist will discuss the type of approach they recommend to meet those goals. Depending on the treatment goals, subsequent sessions will include talking and sometimes engaging in specific behaviors with the animals. In some cases, especially with children or adolescents, this may sometimes take the client and the therapy team outside of the regular therapy office, such as to the horse paddock, barn or out for a walk in the neighborhood. Depending on the treatment plan, the animal partners may or may not be present in the sessions.

Can I bring my animal to therapy?

In some cases bringing your own animal may be part of the treatment plan. This is especially true in Filial Pet Therapy where the parents of children will be taught to initiate interaction with their own family pet to work on behaviors at home. Before bringing your own pet, however, this should be agreed upon with the therapist so that appropriate accommodations can be made for the therapist’s animal partner.

Can I have therapy without a therapy animal?

Our therapy animals are here to add to the comfort of our clients who want them. All of our providers were trained as professional therapists and counselors first, without the use of their animals, and so are still highly qualified to treat you without an animal present. If there is ever a request for counseling without an animal present, this can be arranged.


To learn more about how one of our Professional Therapy Teams can help, or to schedule a consultation, you can contact us at: 720-266-4444, or send us a confidential email. We look forward to working with you.

Barking C.A.A.T. Ranch
(Center for Animal Assisted Therapy)
7275 Kipling Street
Arvada, CO 80005
P 720-266-4444
F 720-266-4444

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