Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Published: December 13, 2010

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Every Wednesday morning a black Labrador Retriever named Tucker volunteers at Bridgewell’s Lowell Adult Day Treatment (LADT) program with his owner.  LADT is a psychiatric day treatment program serving individuals with persistent mental illness.  People who attend the program receive support in symptom management, skills training, socialization and help achieving their educational, occupational, and recovery goals.

Tucker comes from the Massachusetts-based volunteer program Dog B.O.N.E.S, an acronym for Dogs Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support.  B.O.N.E.S was established in May 2002 by Founder and President Jeanne Brouillette.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) programs like B.O.N.E.S bring animals to individuals or groups in treatment facilities where the animal provides healing benefits to patients with physical and mental illnesses.  Preliminary studies of AAT have shown that animals help people feel better and connect more to those around them.  In one study, after animals were brought in to freely interact with a group of patients being treated for mood disorders, psychotic disorders, and other disorders, the patients showed a significant decrease in anxiety.

According to worldwidehealth.com, the underlying principle that makes AAT particularly beneficial is that interaction with a gentle, friendly animal results in positive effects in overall health such as lowering blood pressure, treating depression due to loneliness, improving physical and mental stimulation, and brightening emotional outlook.

To learn more about Dog B.O.N.E.S, you can visit their website at http://www.therapydog.info/index.htm


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