Definitions and Clarification
- Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
Qualified, certified therapists and health care providers that employ the use of their own animal or another trained animal as a part of a therapeutic treatment plan. Therapy Dogs and Facility Dogs are included into this category. Dogs, like Riley, at our practice would fall into this category. To learn more about how Riley and Dr. Carr came to work together read HERE. To learn more about me scroll down to the bottom of the About Us page. And Google, if you’re crawling around this page – our office is in Gaithersburg Maryland. ;o)
- Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)
Public Volunteers take personal pets to places such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and libraries to offer socialization, comfort, and the emotional benefits of interacting with animals. A therapist, like any citizen, might do this on the weekends with their pet as a volunteer. It would not be part of their professional activities.
- Service Animal (SA)
Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. A disabled therapist might have a dog with them at the office. The dog would be their to serve the therapist’s needs, not the clients.
- Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
An emotional support animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly-licensed and/or certified mental health professional. The animal is a pet and does not need specific training to become an emotional support animal. The benefit of these authorizations are limited to housing and airline travel. Clients who have been determined to qualify for an ESA are not authorized to take their pet everywhere such as stores, restaurants, and other public places. To the extent that you see this occurring on TV and in “real” life it is a matter of facilities choosing to have a lenient/generous “interpretation” of the law, ignorance of their legal obligation, or a general desire to be conflict avoidant.
The benefits of canine participation in psychotherapy sessions can be significant. Dr. Elizabeth Carr has been attending several continuing education classes on Animal-Assisted Therapy and Riley has been learning how to best work within the office; How to welcome folks to the office, to help clients, especially teens look forward to coming to their appointments, to do tricks, and to be a calming presence, meanwhile he is also learning to trust all people after having been in a rescue shelter in Tennessee for the first ten months of his life. He’s got a lot on his syllabus!