By Ann Hemingway, Professor of Public Health and Wellbeing, Bournemouth University, Published: April 8, 2022 8.10am EDT
We’ve all heard of the psychotherapy couch, and the dynamic between a client and their human therapist.
But perhaps less well known is the increasingly popular pet therapy. And no, that’s not therapy for your pet – it’s the relatively new phenomenon of therapy for humans, which involves animals.
These animal assisted interventions (AAIs) – which also include a trained human professional – are proving beneficial to people of all ages, leading to significant reductions in physiological responses to stress – such as heart rate – and associated emotions, such as anxiety.
It’s a longstanding and widely accepted fact that people of all ages can benefit from partnerships with animals as pets. From the joy of the human-animal bond, to companionship and improved mental health, there is no doubt that cats, dogs and other pets enhance our lives immeasurably.
But over the last ten years or so, animals have started to help humans in settings away from the home – such as hospitals and care homes for the elderly, as well as schools, universities, prisons and rehabilitation services.