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What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA, Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L

February 3, 2022

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Question

What is animal-assisted therapy?

Answer

Animal-assisted therapy is conducted by occupational therapists, nurses, counselors, or social workers. These are goal-directed therapeutic intervention plans that promote physical, cognitive, psychosocial, behavioral, and/or emotional functioning. Again, the provider is educated and licensed. OTs are licensed, work within their scope of practice, and have specialized continuing education. Finally, the process is evaluated and documented. Figure 1 is an example of a dog doing animal-assisted therapy.

Figure 3

Figure 1. Example of a girl in animal-assisted therapy.

The therapist is trained to be in this environment, with a specific population, and work on individual goals. Her goals might be sensory integration, motor planning, body awareness, et cetera.


melissa winkle

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA

President, Dogwood Therapy Services

Melissa Y. Winkle OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA is both an Occupational Therapist & a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. She is co-founder and President of Dogwood Therapy Services, a private practice in Albuquerque, NM; and of Animal Assisted Intervention International, a European-based organization for healthcare and human service providers who include animals in professional practice. She is adjunct faculty and clinical instructor at several universities and organizations, where she designs and delivers curriculum. Melissa is a practitioner, a researcher, an author and speaks internationally about disability, integrated & community-based program development, animal-assisted interventions, and service dogs. She is a proud UNM OT Program Alumni and a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. 


phoebe yam

Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L

Phoebe Yam OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist from Arcadia, California who graduated from the University of Southern California. She has dedicated the past 3 years at Dogwood Therapy Services to pursue her goal of specializing in animal assisted therapy. She enjoys working with people of all abilities and ages. Phoebe has been studying the effect of training and handling styles on the human-animal relationship and enjoys learning about how to strengthen the human animal bond. She has presented at state and national conferences on achieving competency and standards of practice to further the field of animal assisted therapy for healthcare and human service providers.


Related Courses

Animal Assisted Therapy As An Adjunct To OT
Presented by Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA, Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L
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