Animal Assisted Therapy

ChickenAnimal assisted therapy is a critical component of any residential therapy program. This type of therapy has proven to be very effective in the treatment of adolescents. Animals are a powerful tool that are used for emotional growth. Adolescents benefit both physically and emotionally from large and small animal therapy.

Residents are introduced to animal assisted therapy with small animals. Small animal therapy may involve dogs, cats, rabbits, alpaca and chickens. Residents learn about an animal's biology and psychology and learn how to take care of and nurture animals. Staff are trained to give support and guidance to residents to care for the physical and emotional needs of the animals.

Later in the program, residents are given the opportunity to participate in riding therapy. A professional therapist and a horse professional are integrally involved in this therapy. This type of therapy involves much more than riding a horse, in fact the focus of this therapy is not riding or horsemanship. In addition to learning about the horse's biology and how to care for the horse, the adolescent also learns to train the horse, and learns when to let the horse lead and when to take the lead. Riders are required to master many tasks before they ride a horse. These tasks include approaching a horse safely, speaking to the horse in an arena with an instructor, grooming the horse, watering and feeding the horse, putting on its saddle, cleaning the barn, taking care of all of the equipment (including the tack). These tasks build abilities in sequencing, (understanding antecedents, behaviors and consequences), behavioral and emotional control, (the more the resident exercises good cognitive control, the better his/her horse responds) communication, assertiveness, problem solving and long term memory enhancement. Residents will focus on tasks for the first half of the program. Only residents who have mastered the tasks involved in caring for the animals will be allowed to ride a horse during the second half of the program. The riding portion of the program will occur a few days a week and residents will always be accompanied by a professional instructor.

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