Animal-assisted intervention: What our furry friends can teach us about the world.
Humans’ relationship with animals and nature is the most ancient life-sustaining bond. In the 19th century with the emergence of industrialization, this equal give and take between humans and animals turned into an exploitative, cruel industrial agriculture based on profit, not values and ethics. Our modern urban lifestyle has alienated us from food production processes and our ecosystem, thus making contact with animals rare and unusual.
However, this human desire to connect with other species has not vanished, but has rather transformed into something else. In the era of individualization, egotistical drives and loneliness, animals have become precious companions and members of our families.
Our relationship with the animals in our lives
Anyone who has ever had a pet can talk about the special position they have in a family or home. The social interactions you have with a pet may not be the same as with humans, but they are nonetheless important. People love speaking to their pets, communicating with each other in many ways (even though they don’t speak the same language). Many people believe that their pets are able to understand their emotions and turn to them for comfort and support when they are feeling distressed. Sometimes people feel more comfortable expressing difficult emotions with their pets rather than a family member or a close friend.
Service and support animals are special working animals that have been individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. These animals, in most cases dogs, provide crucial help for people with disabilities and allow them to live independent lives, gain self-confidence and do activities that they would not be able to do without them.
What is Animal Assisted Intervention?
It is a type of therapy or activity where the practitioner works together with an animal to provide health, educational, therapeutic, or other benefits to people who are struggling and need a bit of help. There are many types of interventions that can be done with animals such as:
Animal assisted therapy – the person engages in a therapeutic process to improve their physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive state
Animal assisted education – animals are used to assist in the learning process and help people attain certain skills
Animal assisted activity – is an activity where animals partake and help in it. Animals together with their “human colleague” visit different facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, centers for children with special needs, veteran homes,etc.
Benefits of having a furry companion
Taking care of an animal raises self-confidence and makes people feel accomplished
A strong emotional bond and unconditional love
Reduces anxiety and diverts attention from negative feelings and moods
Reduces boredom, loneliness, depressive feelings or thoughts
Motivation to exercise and socialize with other people
Helps people develop empathy and nurturing skills
🌄 References :
- Animal Assisted Interventions International: https://aai-int.org/
- Animal Assisted Therapy, Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy
- Braastad, B., Berget, B. Theoretical Frameworks for Animal-Assisted Interventions. Dept. of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
🌄Further information, to deepen the subject :
- Bubar, S. (2019) 6 types of Animals used for therapy https://www.wideopenpets.com/6-types-of-animals-used-for-therapy/
- Pet partners: https://petpartners.org/