written before about how having pets can teach children responsibility and we've looked at how some schools are using dogs to work with struggling readers. Now we have learned about a psychotherapy practice, Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado, that uses dogs and cats to help patients talk about the issues that have brought them into treatment. First reported in the Denver Post, Linda Chassman, Ph.D., a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and her team of human therapists, dogs, cats, and even a horse, use the connection that patients form with animals to reach them in a way that traditional "talk therapy" cannot.
Recognizing that using animals to reach people, especially children, is an area of growing interest, the American Humane Society has put together an Animal Assisted Therapy Program to train professionals who want to incorporate pet therapy into their practices and is working with the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work Institute for Human - Animal Connection where ongoing research includes examining the impact of pet therapy on the psychotherapeutic process.
Of course, just having a dog or cat in a therapist's office is not necessarily beneficial to patients. The credentials of the therapist, whether he or she has had training from a reputable source in incorporating animals into the therapy process, and how the patient feels about animals are all key considerations before working with a therapist who includes pets in his or her practice. But this kind of treatment may be something to consider for particular patients in particular circumstances.