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What Is Animal Assisted Therapy? FAQs Answered by a JCAC Counselor


What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. At Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling, we currently have one therapy dog, Zoey, that works in our office.

How can having an animal, like Zoey, help in therapy sessions?

Scientific studies have shown that animals can help to relax people in many ways. Animals help improve motivation and engagement in therapy. This could result in a shorter recovery process. Animals provide a sense of security and emotional support. They show unconditional love. Research shows that petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and increase feel-good chemicals in the brain. Animal Assisted therapy can also help clients learn frustration tolerance and other anger management techniques. Additionally, animals can help in the areas of focus and attention. Because animals can be instruments of learning, they help you increase self-confidence, self-esteem, and help you to manage your fears. Therapy dogs help clients to develop empathy, nurturance, and responsibility, and model other skills like forgiveness and patience.

How does Animal Assisted Therapy work?

Sessions will look different for everyone. Some clients get on the floor and play with Zoey with her ball or other toys. Other times, she will just sit on the couch next to you so that you can pet her while you talk with Ginny about things going on with you. If you don’t want to play or pet her, she will take a nap on some pillows or on the back of the couch during your session. Zoey gets to know her clients and follows their lead during the session.

Who can benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy?

Anyone who is interested in having a session with Zoey can benefit from her special skills. Zoey works with adults, teens, and children who have anxiety, depression, or those who have gone through a trauma. She has sat next to fire fighters, veterans, and sexual assualt survivors. She has helped children to find their voice when they are afraid, and cuddled with clients who felt that their situation was hopeless.

Are there risks to Animal Assisted Therapy?

If you’re allergic to dogs, it would probably not be a good idea to work with them. Also, Zoey is a dog who likes to play. If you are playing with her anywhere near her mouth, in the excitement of playing, she could bite. She would never mean to bite, but she might get excited when she plays. It is always best to pet her on her back. She is up to date on all of her shots and she has been through basic dog training. Ginny has also taken a class that trained her to practice Animal Assisted Therapy.

Can I see what Zoey would be like in a session?

Yes! If you click on the link below, it will take you to a video that shows Zoey in action at Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling.


About Ginny!

Ginny has a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regent University. She loves to work with clients who struggle with anger management, anxiety, depression, trauma, bullying, and children dealing with parental divorce. As a certified trauma therapist, Ginny finds it an honor to work with First Responders, Fire Fighters, and Veterans. To schedule a call to talk with Ginny, call 404-834-2363.