For thousands of years animals have accompanied humans throughout history play different roles that have facilitated our survival and well-being.
Domestication has put certain species at our service by adapting to the needs of humans, however, the emotional and physical well-being of the animal has not been taken into account. Fortunately, in recent years, the process of human evolution has gone hand in hand with awareness, education and respect for animals.
While it is true that there is still much to do in Spain in terms of education and traditions that do not involve pain and animal suffering, we welcome the fact that there are more and more initiatives training that provide true knowledge of the animal to ensure a life. more suited to its ethology. The new generations are eager to do well and it seems that empathy for living things is gaining ground.
But why present our field of work with a paragraph on animal welfare? Because, as psychologists, if we want to focus on working with emotions and human well-being and we want an animal as a facilitator and companion, Our tool must be well maintained and balanced because it is also an emotional being like us.
But let’s start from the beginning: assisted animal intervention (IAA) is a formula in which an animal is intentionally included or incorporated for the purpose of promoting improvement in the fields of health, education and social in order to obtain therapeutic benefits in humans.
If, as you read, these are therapies or interventions, although I do not intend to enter the debate on the typical intrusion psychologists undergo in all our disciplines; The LPNs are another hotbed of bad practice where we find professionals with very different profiles from the socio-health-educational field practicing “animal-assisted therapy”.
Be an unregulated area and always with many legal loopholes to consider it as a psychological and / or therapeutic technique well, it is true that we are more and more welcomed in public academic institutions. Since October 2015, thanks to the International University of Andalusia (UNIA) and the University of Jaén, the official IAA Master has been launched in order to regulate the profession. In addition, in Madrid, through the King Juan Carlos University, addresses all audiences the need to instill and raise awareness of the values of respect and care of animals from an early age (Animals and Society Chair – Office of Interventions assisted by animals).
The origins of this strategy
Focused on our business, the introduction of dogs in consultation has its beginnings with the famous Dr. Sigmund Freud that her dog Jofi supported during her psychotherapy sessions. It was not until 1953 that Dr. Borris Levinson began to lay the foundations of Assisted Animal Therapy thanks to his dog Jingles, a motivating companion and facilitator of the link between patient and professional.
With these precursors and in a wide range of experiments and scientific studies, we discover how LPNs provide benefits on a global level: decrease in stress, decrease in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as decrease in feelings of pain. loneliness and abandonment, increased social interactions, and stable socio-emotional functioning.
The benefits of animal therapies
Although this area tends to focus more on working with children and people with some kind of disability in any of the areas mentioned above, we are all candidates to benefit from what animals bring us.
And what kind of specific benefits do they bring us then? For example, petting an animal helps lower blood pressure and therefore creates a state of relaxation, while playing or walking with it encourages the practice of physical activity, associated with a creation of habits and routines associated with our professional need. From an emotional point of view, the animal promotes and improves both communication and social skills and, in turn, stimulates positive emotions and self-esteem.
It is important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of an animal treatment does not depend on the animal but on the the values, knowledge and skills of the psychologist to introduce this technique in the most efficient way. There is a tendency to place a lot of responsibility on the animal and aim for a versatile tool that suits the specific needs of each patient and this is a significant bias that we see in students and professionals who perform LPNs.
The fundamental role of the animal is to facilitate and motivate, thus providing different stimuli that enrich and complete the interaction between professional and patient. The animal will participate in the sessions as part of a well-being protocol that takes into account his emotions and above all, his stress. Take the example of the horse world and equine therapy, The effort is to put aside the mount and encourage work “in the field” which allows us to know the animal from its ethology and to learn its communication.
Without a doubt, animals can become great masters who teach us to look deep within ourselves, they are a mirror, a radar that informs us through their non-verbal language when we are not clear or consistent.
The reaction of animals helps us to observe ourselves better, Promote our use of communication and its effectiveness. They cannot be held responsible, if something does not work in our interaction with them, it will be necessary to become aware of what we ask of them and especially of the way in which we ask it.
In this way, efficiency means finding the best version to offer to others and even to ourselves. And this is precisely the main goal of animal-assisted interventions: to improve the quality of life of patients with the help of those who can bring out our most natural and emotional side.