Do you ever notice that when you are having a bad day your best friend with four paws seems to empathize? It’s not your imagination. According to Rusty Lozano, M.Ed, LPC and director at The Center for Biofeedback & Behavior Therapy in the North Dallas Corridor, animals are often used in a variety of therapy situations for this reason.
“Animal Assisted Therapy works by introducing a domesticated animal from a variety of sorts – canine, feline, equestrian – into the human therapeutic process in counseling,” Lozano said. “It serves to facilitate the relationship between the therapist and patient by harnessing the natural bond animal lovers typically experience toward an animal, a sense of love, acceptance and joy to enable growth and development in the patient by inspiring feelings of security, confidence and empathy.”
People may have reservations about the therapy process for a number of reasons, but as Lozano explained, interaction with the animals lessens these feelings.
“A person’s initial reservations about therapy are lessened because of the non-threatening interaction between the animal, the therapist and the patient,” Lozano said. “Therefore a higher quality of progress can be attained and a sense of trust established sooner, creating ideal conditions for the therapeutic process.”
Animal Assisted Therapy also works to the advantage of the therapist in their relationship with the patient.
“The trust and acceptance that the animal gives the patient is also transferred onto the therapist,” Lozano said. “Instilling those quality traits that will establish the therapeutic relationship.”
The Center for Biofeedback and Behavior Therapy has an equine assisted program at a ranch. They own two horses, Cissy and Tickett, who they utilize for group and individual equine assisted therapy.
“Our focus is to put a patient in direct contact with one of these big guys, which can be overwhelming,” Lozano said. “Through hands on activities in the pasture or round pen, we work on a variation of ways to help develop a sense of leadership, confidence, empathy, and accomplishment. We can assist with very specific concerns, such as anger control, anxiety, empathy skills and overcoming trauma.”