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Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI)

AAI (Animal-Assisted Interventions) is a term referring to a wide variety of interventions involving animals in order to improve the quality of life for humans. Each type of intervention is unique in its goals, level and type of training for the person carrying out the intervention, setting, the manner in which it is carried out, and the type and degree of training the animal might need. Some of the interventions are carried out only by mental or physical health professionals trained in a relevant recognized field, others may be carried out by lay persons with a limited amount of training, and yet others may be carried out with a lay person in cooperation with a physical or mental health professional. The following is a list of various classes of animal-assisted interventions, including the credentials of the person carrying out the intervention and types of interventions within each class of interventions.

Animal-assisted education (practiced by educators)

  • Animal-assisted learning in classrooms
  • Animal-assisted reading in libraries
  • Animal-assisted learning in school petting zoos and nature rooms

Animal-assisted psychoeducation (practiced by educational counselors, other mental-health professionals)

  • Psychoeducation, psychosocial skills-learning activities
  • Humane education – development of empathy and related skills

Animal-assisted activities (run by lay individuals with a limited degree of training)

  • Pet-partner activities – visits to hospitals, nursing homes, institutions for special populations, etc.
  • Child-animal interactions in petting zoos
  • Therapeutic riding*
  • Therapeutic dog-training (goals may be psychoeducational or psychosocial)

Animal-assisted social work (practiced and/or supervised by social workers)

  • Visiting elders living alone to increase connection, prevent loneliness, encourage communication
  • Dog-training activities with at-risk youth
  • Prison inmate programs – dog-training, interactions with horses*

Service/Assistance interventions (dog trainers or handlers in conjunction with a professional from a relevant field)

  • Assistance for physical disabilities (blind, hearing-impaired, bed-ridden or wheel-chair ridden)
  • Assistance for emotional disabilities (war veterans suffering from PTSD)

“Courthouse Dogs” (practiced by criminal justice professionals)

  • Accompanying victim during forensic interviews
  • Accompanying victim during various phases of investigation and courtroom proceedings
  • Providing emotional comfort to victims and family members during proceedings

Animal-Assisted Therapy:

Animal-assisted psychotherapy and counseling – either in therapy zoos or traditional psychotherapy settings, individual or group therapy (practiced by clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, mental health practitioners, psychotherapists)

  • Animal-assisted play therapy
  • Animal-assisted psychotherapy for adolescents, adults
  • Equine-facilitated psychotherapy*
  • Psychological “first aid” – “on site” or short-term work with trauma victims

Animal-assisted physical therapy (practiced by physical therapists)

  • Traditional physical therapy integrating a variety of small animals
  • Hippotherapy*

Animal-assisted occupational therapy (practiced by occupational therapists)

  • Traditional occupational therapy integrating a variety of small animals
  • Hippotherapy*

Animal-assisted speech therapy (practiced by speech therapists)

  • Traditional speech therapy integrating a variety of small animals
  • Hippotherapy*


*Any intervention dealing with horses demands an extensive background with horses by the person carrying out the intervention

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