Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is one of the newer specialty therapeutic services at Hillside, which provides youth opportunities to forge connections and process difficult emotions. Working with our hermit crabs, bunnies, ferrets, and our gecko, AAT allows children to develop and practice important qualities, including trust and responsibility, in a safe way. Children can learn the power of safe touch through our rabbits, understand the development of trust through our turtles, and relate to our hermit crabs’ movement to new shells. Our gecko, Radical, has overcome the challenge of a missing tail and continues to live a healthy life. This story of overcoming obstacles, resonates with the youth in our care. For individuals who have difficulty participating in human interaction, developing empathetic bonds with animals can be an extraordinary step. Scientific research has proven that AAT increases endorphins and dopamine in humans and can reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

Because of the highly cognitive nature of DBT, children who are intellectually challenged or those who have psychotic or autism/aspergers disorders, benefit greatly from the additional support AAT provides to grasp therapeutic concepts and skills.  AAT reaches children who have been labeled “hard to treat” or “stagnant” when traditional therapies alone cannot.


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