Animal-Assisted Therapy

What is Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?

We get it.  The whole concept of counseling can just feel weird.  You’re supposed to come to a strange office and talk with someone you’ve never met, sharing all of your struggles, fears, insecurities, and worries?  Most people wonder, “Will I be judged?”  Or, “What will my counselor think of me?”  While we can guarantee that every counselor on our team will meet you with only the utmost care, respect, and compassion, sometimes it just feels good to have a warm, friendly, and unconditionally loving third party present: a dog.

AAT, or Animal-Assisted Therapy, began in the early 1990s and is a relatively new field. Since then, however, it has grown in popularity and has gained wide acceptance and is evolving into mainstream psychology.  And why not?  Pets provide companionship and generally speaking, just make us happy.  That’s why Cornerstone is proud to offer Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) as part of our counseling services.

Research shows that involving animals in the counseling process can have an incredible influence on the physical and emotional healing of people.

animal-assisted therapy

Special BENEFITS INCLUDE:

  • Animals help improve motivation and engagement in therapy, perhaps resulting in a shorter recovery process (and lower costs).
  • Animals provide a sense of security and emotional support. Dogs in particular offer unconditional acceptance and positive regard.
  • Animals can promote relaxation. Research has demonstrated that petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and increase oxytocin (a feel-good chemical in the brain). In a study of people who had heart attacks, those that had a companion animal lived longer than those that did not.
  • Animals can help the client learn frustration tolerance and other anger management techniques.
  • Animals can help in the areas of focus and attention.
  • Animals can be instruments of learning, which can increase self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Animals offer humor and fun due to their playful nature.
  • Animals in therapy ask for clients to develop empathy, nurturance, and responsibility, and model other skills like forgiveness and patience.
  • Clients can learn about stereotypes affecting animals, and how they deal with stereotypes in their own life. Through this, they can learn advocacy skills.
  • Through the use of positive reinforcement-based dog training, clients can learn the importance of rewarding good behaviors in themselves, in their partners, and/or their children.
  • Note these are examples are not an exhaustive list of benefits.

There are many benefits to working with therapy animals during your counseling journey, but don’t take our word for it!  We invite you to try it out for yourself.  Currently, AAT is offered at our Colorado Springs office with our counselor Chris Abatelli, and his dog Baker.

Chris Abatelli

M.A., CAGS, LPC

Colorado Springs | Online

Some of Chris's specialties include:

  • Animal-Assisted Therapy (with his Labrador Retriever, Baker)
  • addiction recovery
  • severe mental illness
  • individual therapy
  • group therapy
  • couples and family therapy
  • stress
  • conflict resolution
  • mindfulness
  • grief
  • pornography addiction 
  • bullying
  • suicide
  • sexual issues

View Chris's Bio

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If Animal-Assisted Therapy has sparked an interest or questions for you, we invite you to complete the form below and we’ll happily reach out to talk with you.

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