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Accomplishing therapeutic benefits by involving animals in the curative process is now becoming common enough in the medical arena to be treated as a specialized stream. Referred to as Animal Assisted Therapy, it entails facilitating and encouraging interaction between the patient and the chosen animal so that there is significant improvement in the former.
Today, Animal Assisted Therapy is a recognized and accepted discipline wherein the process begins with a casual â€˜meet and greetâ€™ session where pets are brought to a medical facility, senior citizen home or psychiatric center and made to mingle with the patients. Sometimes the program is tailored to meet the requirements of a particular person or medical condition, otherwise it is an interactive activity that is meant to foster communication, sharing and love. Whether every session needs to be monitored or treated as an unofficial visit depends on the caregivers as also the expected objectives.
Some of the segments which have been effectively benefited from Animal Assisted Therapy are â€“
- Depression in children â€“ Children who tend to grow up with an inherent feeling of insecurity and feel stressed about daily incidents are more prone to depression. In such a situation, introducing them to a therapy dog not only helps them to calm down but also overcome their fears and gain confidence.
- Poor Gross Motor Skills: People with poor gross motor skills are taught to handle clasps, collars and buckles on animals and as the therapy progresses they are even expected to prise open a tin of food and feed the animal. Because such patients grow to like and care for the animal they tend to master these skills and hence show significant improvement within a short duration.
- Heart Stroke: To encourage a victim of heart stroke to stand and assume movement, brushing a dog is a good technique. While stroking the animal has a tremendous soothing effect, brushing it requires moving around and hence facilitates faster recovery.
Several other ways of harnessing the tremendous power of this therapy are being studied and on being released are likely to translate into good prognosis for various medical conditions.