There are many benefits to Animal Assisted Therapy, including the increase of physical activity, improved self-esteem, reduction in stress levels, reduction in depression and decrease in blood pressure to name but a few.
AAT covers a very broad area and can be used with horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, miniature pigs, cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits and even guinea pigs!
A study was carried out by the University of Basel in 2019 to explore this emerging field and it was published in Scientific Reports. The study aimed to investigate the effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on social competence in patients with acquired brain injury undergoing neurorehabilitation. It measured social behaviour, mood, treatment motivation and satisfaction of patients and concluded that introducing animals into therapy sessions for patients with acquired brain injury led to an increase in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Patients showed more positive emotions, were more motivated and their satisfaction levels were higher.
As well as assisting in ATT, animals have been proven to assist brain injury sufferers from feeling isolated whilst improving their communication and motor skills in everyday life, as well as improving motivation to do everyday tasks. As animals cannot verbally communicate with us or judge, they make the perfect companions for those with a brain injury as they help to build confidence through interaction without the need to interact with other people.
The two most common types of therapy with animals involves horses and dogs, due to their loyal and forgiving nature. However, there are many more animals now used to assist in therapy, from finding motivation to care for them to providing the unconditional companionship that a brain injury sufferer is looking for.