Animal-Assisted Therapy: A Volunteer's Perspective
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Animal Assisted Therapy is a non-traditional therapy method that has gained recognition in recent years. The literature on the subject is largely provided by professional counselors and licensed social workers. This study investigated the perspectives of the volunteer animal handlers who participate with their pets in Animal Assisted Therapy/Activity. Seventeen qualitative, in-depth interviews were performed with volunteers who have participated in AAT/A with their pet. The volunteers revealed their roles as the “driver” in the visit, serving as their pet’s advocate, facilitating interaction between their pet and the client and sometimes using their pet as an ice breaker in order to establish a connection between themselves and the client. Likewise, involving a pet in volunteerism allowed for the respondents to interact with persons they normally would not come into contact with. The non-judgmental nature of the animal assists clients who have physical disabilities or difficult life situations in accepting the help of the human volunteer. The study adds to research by providing an outlet for the opinions and insights of those who take part in AAT/A with their pets.