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Animal Assisted Therapy in Elementary Schools

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Kelsey Marshall

on 17 April 2014

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Transcript of Animal Assisted Therapy in Elementary Schools

What it is NOT
Social visits with a therapy animal
“Designed to improve patients’ quality of life through utilization of the human-animal bond” (Chandler, 2005, p.5)
Animal Assisted Activity (AAA)
Animal Assisted
What it IS
“AAT utilizes the human-animal bond in goal-directed interventions as an integral part of the treatment process” (Chandler, 2005, p.5)
The counselor uses the animal to supplement therapy, not substitute
AAT can be used with a wide range of clients – ages and abilities
According to Chandler (2005), there is a natural tendency for human and animal to create a bond which “fosters such quick rapport and empathy between the client and therapy pet” (p.5).
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
Why involve animals?
1. Client’s desire to spend time with animal, encourages and motivates client.
2. Client’s focus is shifted away from emotional pain, which allows client to work harder, longer and benefit more
3. Physical contact with animal allows for nurturing and affection
4. Petting or holding the animal is soothing
5. Animal gives unconditional acceptance
6. The interaction brings joy and entertainment to client
7. The animal’s trust of the counselor facilitates the client’s trust
8. The client may be able to perform activities and achieve goals not otherwise possible.
Risk Factors
Violence toward others
Drug use or alcohol abuse
Is NOT a risk factor for (Emler, 2002):
Low self-esteem
Suicide, suicide attempts, and depression
Teenage pregnancy
Victimization by others
IS a risk factor for (Emler, 2002):
Low vs high self-esteem
Victimization through bullying (Nansel, 2001)
Depression (King, 2002)
Childhood low self-esteem may be associated with adolescent eating disorders (Ensel, 2002).
Childhood low self-esteem has even been associated with poor economic outcomes in early adulthood due to breaks in employment (Ensel, 2002).
Low self-esteem associated with:
High academic achievement
Involvement in sport and physical activity
Development of effective coping
Peer pressure resistance skills
High self-esteem associated with (King, 2002):
Warning Signs
Avoiding a task or challenge
Gives up at first sign of frustration
Cheats or lies when belief that task will end in failure
Shows signs of regression
Controlling, bossy, or inflexible
Makes excuses or downplays importance of events
Declining grades and social withdrawal
Makes self-critical comments
Difficulty accepting praise or criticism
Overly concerned about other's opinions
Low self-esteem is a cause, rather than merely a symptom, of social problems. A child's self-worth must be considered (Crocker, 2001)

"Low self-esteem
forms in childhood when the individual is developing an initial view of how he or she, as a person, fits into the world. This process begins at birth and may continue to be cemented up to age 8 or 10" (Sorensen, 1998).
Trauma in Childhood
Scope of the Problem
According to Briere and Elliot, child abuse affects one in three girls and one in seven boys (2003).
Of 17,000 adults studied by Felitti and colleagues (1998), 10.6% had experienced emotional abuse, 28.3% physical abuse and 20.7% sexual abuse in childhood.
According to Jonson-Reid, Drake, Kim, Porterfield and Han, “sexual abuse cases have the highest rate of diagnosis for learning disabilities” (as cited in O’Neill, Guenette, Kitchenham, 2010, p.193).
Risk Factors
Personality/Psychological well-being
Parental Histories and Cycle of Abuse
Substance Abuse
Attitudes and Knowledge

Family Structure
Marital conflict and Domestic Violence
Parent-Child Interaction

Family factors
Warning Signs
Difficulties in memory
Emotional arousal
Social relationship issues
Problem-solving difficulties
Delays in language
Learning disabilities
Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Anxiety and mood disorders
Attachment issues
Physical Symptoms
Irrational fears
Scope of the Problem
The prevalence of children reporting anxiety and worry almost doubles to 80% after 7 years of age. (Muris et al., 2000) (Ollendick, 2001).
Almost 70% of a sample of 8 to 13-year-old children reported anxiety and worry (Ellis & Hudson, 2010).
Basic Anxiety Symptoms
Risk Factors
Difficulties in self-regulation of cognition
(Ellis & Hudson, 2010)
Difficulty concentrating
(Grover, Ginsburg, & Lalongo, 2006)
Academic difficulty
Warning Signs
Text anxiety
(Beidel et al., 1999)
Reluctance to speak up in the classroom
Poor academic performance
Isolated from others
(Schmidt & Fox, 1998)
Limited peer relationships
Social withdrawal
Fearfulness, defiance, and tearful outbursts from younger children
(Luby & Belden, 2006)
Difficulty concentrating
Muscle Tension (tight jaw, stiff posture)
Sleep disturbance
Scope of the Problem
The 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health reported the most commonly diagnosed problems among children 6-17 years of age were learning disabilities (11.5%) and children with developmental problems had lower self-esteem, more depression and anxiety (Blanchard & Blackman, 2006).
75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking when feeling badly about themselves (Fund, 2008).
(Ollendick, 2001)
Continuing anxiety disorders
(Prior et al., 2000)
Major depression
Potential suicide attempts
Strengths and Assets
Strengths of Elementary Students
(Vernon, 2009)
More self-control
Mastered motor skills
Concrete operational thinking
Conversational skills
Development of internal locus of control
Contributes to self-esteem, self-worth, and individual capabilities
Awareness of strengths and weaknesses
Engagement in prosocial behaviors
Strengths of AAT
The child’s early play with books about animal characters that talk, dance, and can think, teach life lessons that provide a foundation for continued learning and play through animal-assisted therapy (Pichot, 2012).
The therapy animal serves as an effective adjunct intervention and can supplement bibliotherapy, behavior management plans, classroom guidance lessons, and group counseling strategies (Flom, 2005).
“The benefits children and adolescents experience with animals include sense of belonging, reduce anxiety, increased responsibility, practice with relationships, improved mood, enhancement of the psychotherapy process, and reduction in problem behaviors” (Flom, 2005).
Adlerian Therapy
Basic Adlerian Beliefs
“The work is an educational process – helping people learn better ways to meet the challenges of life tasks, providing direction, helping people change their mistaken notions, and offering encouragement to those who are discouraged”

“The focus is on understanding whole persons within their socially embedded contexts of family, school, and work”

“All people need to address the life tasks of building friendships (social) establishing intimacy (love/marriage), and contributing to society (occupational task)”

The occupational task (contribution) is connected to our self-worth and self-esteem. Adlerian counseling is ideally suited to the development of self-esteem “and can be of great assistance to children who struggle with feeling worthwhile, likable, and competent”
(Corey, 2011)
AAT & Adlerian Techniques
Builds rapport in the relationship
Facilitates insight
Enhances social skills
Enhances relationship skills
Encourages sharing of feelings
Enhances trust within the therapeutic environment
Facilitates feelings of being safe in the therapeutic environment
(Chandler et al. 2010)
AAT & Adlerian Examples
Help discouraged and frustrated students understand their self-defeating private logic and create a new productive logic (Chandler et al., 2010)

Many students enjoy giving the therapy dog a command to perform a trick.

The counselor helps the student understand that a misunderstanding (or mistaken belief) about their inability to have the dog follow their command led to their personal doubt and misperception of self-worth (Chandler et al., 2010)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Basic CBT Beliefs
1. People's internal communication is accessible to introspection
2. Clients' beliefs have highly personal meanings
3. These meanings can be discovered by the client
“CBT is an efficient form of treatment for a wide range of specific problems for diverse client populations” (White & Freeman, 2000).

CBT can be used primarily to increase the client’s degree of control and freedom in specific aspects of daily life (Corey, 2011).

“A basic assumption of the cognitive behavioral perspective is that most problematic behaviors, cognitions, and emotions have been learned and can be modified by new learning” (Corey, 2011).

"The way people feel and behave is influenced by how they perceive and structure their experience" (Corey, 2011, p.303)
CBT & AAT Example
Establishing an Animal-Assisted Therapy School Based Program
Write a program proposal that includes expected benefits, potential risks, types of activities, training of the counselor and animal, where AAT will take place, and intent to develop policies and procedures through consultation with relevant school personnel (Chandler, 2005).

Present the proposal at a meeting with the school principal, providing a written proposal to be reviewed, and if possible show a video of AAT in action (Chandler, 2005).
DVDs are available through organizations like Delta Society.
Types of AAT Programs
School counselor brings pet to work

Therapy animal is used in the classroom for instructional enhancement

Counselor, students, and pets develop a visiting animal program
Children, teachers and administrators stop to visit counselor

Math and reading teachers
SC Dogs Therapy Group: www.scdogs.org
BARK: Book and Reading Kids and Fix It Fido: Anti-Bullying

Delta Society Pet Partners: www.petpartners.org
Students trained to provide community services
(Chandler, 2005)
Types of AAT Programs
Counselor and students partner with an existing program

EAGALA - Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association: www.eagala.org
Equine programs
Counselor ensures program credibility for students to participate

Certifies nation-wide programs like Mustang Medicine Works, LLC in Central, SC
(Chandler, 2005)
Financial Support
School counselor brings pet to work
Very low cost

Low or no cost if the work is done by volunteers

Cost of joining an organization like Delta Society

Higher cost based on program's fees
Fundraising and sponsorship
(Chandler, 2005)
Therapy animal is used in the classroom for instructional enhancement
Counselor, students, and pets develop a visiting animal program
Counselor and students partner with an existing program (Like Mustang Medicine Works)
Stakeholders involvement
“It is imperative that you consult with all relevant [stakeholders] that may be impacted by the program. The persons you leave out of the loop will inevitably be those who complain about the program or try to sabotage the program. This is usually because they do not understand the program’s implications and fear it will interfere with their work or add to their workload” (Chandler, 2005)

Because AAT in school systems is new territory, much focus should be placed on stakeholders involvement.
Potential Stakeholders
school nurse
custodial services
facilities management
grounds maintenance
other teachers
other counselors
other administrators
Animal Personalities
Personalities of Animals
The most common pet practitioners in a counseling setting are dogs (Chandler, 2005).
There is no special breed of dog for work in a counseling setting.
It is important to match a dog's personality with the population it is to work with
A younger and more playful dog might be more appropriate for work with high-energy adolescents
Example: Dogs
Personalities of Animals cont
Interactive, but not overly rough or submissive
Enjoys social interaction with humans
No willful; "bossy"
Recovers quickly from startling sounds and movements; the unexpected
Comfortable being held off of the ground
Stable in an unstable environment
Appropriate and gentle response to unpleasant physical stimuli
Positive energy levels
Traits of good therapy animals (dogs, cats, and horses):
Self-esteem/Adlerian in AAT
A third grade teacher refers a student to you and says for the past week the student has not turned in any completed work and is not actively participating in class.

The teacher is not just concerned because of the incomplete work, the student is also showing visible signs of frustration, and in private telling the teacher the work is too hard and they are too dumb.

What techniques would you use with this student in conjunction with using a therapy animal?
Counseling/Educational Needs
Cognitive Development

Limited in problem-solving
Thought is still concrete -> assumptions

Peer comparisons: self-critical, inferior, low self-esteem

Peer pressure and rejection

Anxiety about school performance and peer inclusion
Counseling/Educational Needs
Appearance and Health
Peer relationships
Stressors (Vernon, 2009)
Aggression and disruptive behavior (Powell et al., 2011)
Appearance of stressors in the school
Farmer and colleagues, as well as Salmon and Kirby, both agreed that “many of the urgent mental health needs of children are first recognized and addressed in the school setting (as cited in Thompson & Trice-Black, 2012, p.233)
Elementary-aged children who would benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy, particularly those struggling with anxiety, self-efficacy and symptoms of abuse
Social Development
Emotional Development
Counseling/Educational Needs
Counseling Applications
Children in need of adult guidance to apply new skills consistently
Use concrete interventions to facilitate resolution to problems
Hands on activities such as bibliotherapy, art, puppets, games, or animal assisted therapy
According to Vernon, "during middle childhood, simply talking about the problem is usually not effective" (as cited in Vernon, 2009, p.15)
(Chandler, 2005)
Low self-esteem is a cause, rather than merely a symptom, of social problems. A child’s self-worth must be considered (Crocker, 2001).

“Low self-esteem
forms in childhood when the individual is developing an initial view of how he or she, as a person, fits into the world. This process begins at birth and may continue to be cemented up to age 8 or 10” (Sorensen, 1998).

Social Isolation and Social Support
Violent Communities
Child factors

Environmental factors
(Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, & Kennedy, 2003)
(O’Neill, Guenette, Kitchenham, 2010)
(Dietz, Davis, & Pennings, 2012)
AAT & Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques
Builds rapport in the relationship
Facilitates insight
Enhances social skills
Enhances relationship skills
Enhances self-confidence
Models specific behaviors
Encourages sharing of feelings
Enhances trust within the therapeutic environment
(Chandler et al. 2010)
Theoretical Assumptions
Child Abuse/CBT in AAT
A fourth grade student's case worker has informed you that the student was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend over the summer. The student has withdrawn from her peers and is aggressive and defiant when approached by teachers.
She has been out of the home for almost two months, currently living with her aunt. Her aunt is having financial difficulties, and cannot get outside counseling for the student.
As her school counselor, you choose to provide individual counseling until you can refer her elsewhere or form a group with other students.
What are some CBT techniques or interventions you could use with the student, involving a therapy animal?
The student does not make eye contact with you, and remains quiet in sessions, but has created a bond with the animal, often whispering to him. What comments would you make to her to encourage trust and rapport building?
Anxiety/CBT in AAT
Mrs. Norris notices that Rachel, a usually bubbly and active student, has been a little more quiet in the recent weeks.
Upon further inspection, Rachel has been quite fidgety in her desk and hasn’t been performing quite as well on her quizzes in class. How can we help Rachel?
When asked about her behavior, Rachel seems a bit irritated by the question and begins to cry like she has done something wrong.
What techniques or therapies would you use with this student in conjunction with using a therapy animal?
Animal Assisted Therapy
in Elementary Schools
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