Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted TherapyAt Paradigm Treatment Centers, we incorporate a number of different approaches and alternative therapeutic modalities, in order to ensure that the teen treatment we provide is as individualized, precise, and thorough as possible. We find that in order to create treatment plans that address the full scope of each teen’s unique needs, we must maintain creativity, flexibility, and sensitivity in all stages of the treatment process. One of the alternative therapy modalities we offer at Paradigm Treatment Centers is our Animal Assisted Therapy program, which is proven to be a valuable therapeutic tool in Teen Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment plans.

Animal Assisted Therapy (or AAT) is a process in which teens get to work with animals in a therapeutic context, which provides valuable opportunities for teens to further open to and engage in their treatment process. Specifically, Animal Assisted Therapy has been proven to be effective in helping teens to gaining insights into themselves; improve their social skills and interactions; learn how to communicate; learn self-awareness; and improve listening skills. The science of Teen Animal Assisted Therapy stems from the Biophilia Hypothesis which speaks to the innate human connection to animals resulting from human being’s early need to interprets signals from animals as a way to read potential threats in the environment. The thought is the modern effect of these ancient connections is that now, if people see animals peaceful and at rest, they enjoy a sense of security because they believe- both consciously and unconsciously- that they are in a safe space.

One of the wonderful qualities of Teen Animal Assisted Therapy is the subtle yet powerful nature of it. Virtually all of the youth here take great enjoyment in these sessions, experiencing a sense of comfort and steadiness with the animals, even amidst difficult and challenging conversations and issues. We see that often, the presence of the animals helps to lessen the flight/fright reaction in teens, and in this way, helps to minimize potential triggers or stressors that may arise throughout sessions. Moreover, the comfort that animals provide can also help alleviate teens’ fears of being judged or criticized by others, which translates to improved interactions with others. Because the animals provide a sense of comfort, teens are often able to become more comfortable and at ease with the therapy session, with the animals present.

Though sometimes subtle, this ability for teens to better navigate the stress and challenges of a session powerfully allows them to engage more consistently and deeply in the process. In this sense, we find that in Teen Animal Assisted Therapy sessions, teens are often able to gain access to aspects of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which may have been unconscious before, and which they may have been unable to access in different sessions or contexts.

At Paradigm Treatment Centers, all of our Teen Animal Assisted Therapy sessions are conducted by licensed Animal Therapists. Furthermore, the Teen Animal Assisted Therapy sessions are carefully designed according to the particular needs, struggles, and strengths of the group members, as well as their current treatment goals. All therapists on our teams coordinate efforts, insights, and care, in the effort to make each moment of teens’ time here therapeutically as valuable as possible, and building toward the teens’ overall health, wellness, and quality of life.