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Animal Assisted Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Animal assisted therapy (AAT), animal assisted education, animal assisted activities, and animal support, all fall under the broad category of animal assisted intervention. AAT is provided by a certified professional whose expertise includes providing goal-directed, intervention to promote cognitive, motor, psychosocial, and sensory skills. (AAII, n.d.; IAHAIO, 2014). In contrast, animal assisted activities refers to animals in spontaneous, recreational visitations in a volunteer capacity (Pet Partners, 2015). Animal assisted activities and AAT differ greatly in the results of human and animal interactions. Animal assisted activities usually refer to trained dogs whom are brought to facilities by volunteers for social benefits, whereas AAT usually refer to trained dogs used as part of an individualized intervention. AOTA states there are three broad means available to incorporate dogs into occupational therapy practice; these include working with volunteer visiting organizations, procure a trained dog or self-training a dog. Using AAT is similar to integrating any other specialty practice area, requiring the same justification, goals, responsibilities, education, and outcomes measurement (AOTA, 2014). In addition to ensuring that the dog supports client-centered goals, the safety and well-being of the dog and all humans in the practice environment must also be ensured.

If you have more questions about AAT, please reach out. We'd love to help answer them!

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework:

Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–S48. ajot.2014.682006

Pet Partners. (2015). Our therapy animal program. Retrieved from

International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations. (2014). IAHAIO white

paper. Retrieved from fileuploads/4163IAHAIO%20WHITE%20PAPER-%20FINAL%20-%20 NOV%2024-2014.pdf

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