Author Archives: Eileen Bona

The 3 Agendas of the Triangle Model of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Posted by: Eileen Bona on mars 26, 2021 1:29

I recently read an article entitled “What Horses Teach Us About Systemic Oppression” by Julia Alexander that resonated with me as I work on this article.

Funnily enough, I was going to write the article yesterday, but it was a freezing cold -26 degrees outside so my own agenda morphed into blanketing the equines rather than writing about them. It was after I chased them around trying to convince them that the blanket was a good thing that I came back to write the article and had to laugh out loud. Here, I was going to write about the need for being fully aware in AAT that animals have their own agenda – not our agenda nor that of our clients. I was going to write about the ethics of considering and equally weighting all three agendas to avoid our human agenda of leading the session against the animal’s will. At this same moment, I found myself chasing my mini donkey around the property and half lassoed him to get his blanket on. I gave up on my Shetland pony because it refused to be caught so I allowed it to make the choice to go blanket-less despite the prediction of a steep -30 degree temperature overnight – so whom did I do right by?

In reality, it can be argued that systemic oppression does not apply to forcing someone to do something that is for its own good if it is in your care.

When I think of this in the context of AAT, I think of it on two levels: One level includes the need to ‘force’ an animal to undergo things it may not want to do to ensure its health while the other level regards our therapeutic agendas in the context of AAT. When we bring animals into our AAT practices, we become their ambassadors and we are responsible for all tenets of their welfare. If we do not conduct wellness checks (despite their protests) or give first aid when needed, then we are not meeting our ethical obligation to provide care. However, what if they simply refuse to work the day your client chooses them in your AAT practice? Are they allowed to say no?

This is where the three agendas come in and possibly animal oppression. Let us do this through an example:

Josh is attending therapy because his mother has died. Josh has attended traditional counselling but it has not been effective. Josh is an avid animal lover and his father is hoping that by working with the animals and an AAT trained mental health therapist, Josh will get the help he needs.

You are that therapist and you have a horse who is very gentle by nature. Josh has no experience working with horses and this horse is perfect for him to begin sessions with. Josh is excited to brush this horse. When you and Josh go toward the horse, it turns away to graze. Here are 3 possible agendas at play: 1. Your agenda is to build rapport with Josh through working with your horse, 2. Josh’s agenda is to brush the horse, 3. The horse’s agenda is to eat. What is the best ethical approach to helping Josh in this moment?

There are many ethical options. Firstly, you could help Josh understand that the horse is a sentient being with its own feelings, wants and needs. You can ask Josh what he thinks you both should do. This would give you a good indication of Josh’s awareness, depth of empathy, and many more important social skills. In doing this, you would be meeting your agenda, which is to get to know Josh and you would be meeting the horse’s agenda, which is to eat but you would not be meeting Josh’s agenda, as he wanted to brush the horse. Secondly, you could catch the horse and bring her back to brush her, meeting both your and Josh’s agendas but not the horse’s.

So how can you meet all three agendas? Perhaps you can suggest to Josh that he get some food to offer your horse. If she comes to him, then it gets to eat while you teach Josh to brush and build rapport. All three agendas will have been met!

As a psychologist who has been working in the medium of AAT for 18 years and who offers a certification in AAT to helping professionals, it is my professional opinion that we should always strive to meet the three agendas when working with animals in practice. Our animal partners are helpers in our work with their own wants and needs. For ethical reasons, we must acknowledge and meet these needs as much as is possible.

I might go so far as to say, now that I read Ms. Alexander’s article, that we may be ‘oppressing’ our therapy animals if we ‘force’ them to do what we want them to do in AAT whether it be because of our personal agenda or that of our client.

It often takes more work to meet our agendas when working with animals, as it is imperative to work around or within their agendas. Many people have much pre-knowledge of working with animals before collaborating with them in professional AAT practice. It is our due diligence to ensure that we are checking in on our beliefs and values about animals before we practice with them and during every single AAT session. There is a very good chance that our pre-lived experiences will influence the agenda of the session. If in fact, we are moving ahead with our human agendas without consideration for our therapy animals’ agendas, then we are most likely practicing animal oppression rather than animal assisted therapy.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Working with Animals in Practice – Terminology

Posted by: Eileen Bona on mars 30, 2020 3:15

The last article “Working with Animals in Practice” provided an overview of the important ethical considerations for including animals in professional practice. These considerations apply to including animals into any workspace or public setting where the animal and people can be negatively impacted if the practice is not informed or thoughtfully prepared.

This article will provide details on the terminology in animal assisted practices. The first point mentioned in the last article was: Understanding the many terms in the field to determine where your particular practice, skills and knowledge might fit. This information can also be helpful for you to discern any training you or your animal partner may need to work in your particular domain.

Working with animals therapeutically has many names and is done in many different ways. As the field is not yet standardized in Canada, it can be confusing trying to understand all the different kinds of animal-related work and what you might need to practice effectively. Other places in North America and the world have been incorporating animals into healing and learning practices for far longer than here in Canada and as a result, there are some commonly agreed-upon terms including:

Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs)

(AAIs) are therapeutic processes that intentionally include or involve (certified) animals as part of the therapeutic process. Animal-Assisted Therapy, Animal-Assisted Activities, and service animals are some examples of animal assisted interventions.”  Fine (2006)

AAI is an umbrella term for all aspects of involving animals to facilitate or enhance human health and learning. Every other term for working with animals to help people in any capacity falls under this term.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized training and expertise in AAT and within the scope of practice of his/her profession.” –Pet Partners

 Key Features of AAT

  • A certified animal is included to enhance or facilitate the therapy process.
  • There are specified goals and objectives for each individual.
  • A qualified professional, trained and certified in AAT, is involved in the animal interactions for a specific purpose.
  • Progress is measured.

Examples of Goals of AAT Programs:

The following are some examples of AAT goals:

  • Physical Health – Improve fine motor skills, balance
  • Mental Health and Cognitive Ability – Increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, increase attention skills, process traumatic events
  • Social Skills – Increase verbal interactions, develop leisure skills
  • Developing and increasing Empathy

Animal Assisted Education and/or Learning (AAE/L)

AAE/L incorporates animals into the learning environment.  The certified, trained animal in educational settings is either the subject of the lesson plan to facilitate the learning or is included to enhance the environment for learning to take place.

 Key Features of AAE/L

  • A certified animal is included to enhance or facilitate the learning process.
  • Educators, aides or knowledgeable volunteers are trained in AAE/L and conduct the sessions.
  • Educational content is planned and can be within or outside the classroom environment.

Examples of AAE/L

  •  Reading Assistance programs where certified animals are present as motivators and read to by people who are reading-challenged.

Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)

“AAA provides opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational, and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance quality of life. AAA are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers, in association with animals that meet specific criteria.” Pet Partners

What does this mean?
AAA are basically the casual “meet and greet” activities that involve animals visiting people. There are not typically any particular or measurable goals and the “visit” does not have to be carried out by a qualified professional. This is often referred to as “Pet Visitation.” The term “Pet Therapy” is outdated. The animal is certified for this work.

Key Features of AAA

  • Treatment goals are not planned for each visit.
  • The animal is certified for its work.
  • The animal handler is certified for this work.
  • Visit content is spontaneous and visits last as long or as short as needed.

Examples of AAA:

  • Volunteers certified in AAA take their certified animals to a nursing home once a month to “visit.” No formal goals are expected to be reached.

Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR)

“AAC) gives…trained professionals an additional means with which to help people affected by crisis. AACR teams can be used to establish rapport, build therapeutic bridges, normalize the experience, and act as … a catalyst for physical movement.” Greenbaum, S.D. (2006).

What does this mean?
AACR involves professionals trained both in crisis response and AACR. They work alongside certified therapy animals to relieve stress and build bridges between them and the people they are attempting to help.

 Key Features of AACR

  • Specific treatment goals are not planned for each visit.
  • The overall intent is to help people at the moment of crisis and to alleviate the side effects of crisis.
  • AACR professionals are cross trained in crisis protocols and animal assisted methods.
  • Animals are screened, trained and certified to do this work in a variety of crisis situations.

Example of AACR:

  • A person is rescued from a burning house and is too traumatized to respond to questions of whether or not there is anyone else in the house. The AACR specialist, with the help of the certified dog, assists the survivor of the fire to become de-escalated and lucid enough to tell the firefighters if anyone else was in the house.

These are the most common terms for working with animals in the helping profession including mini horses. When working with ponies, full-sized horses, donkeys or mules, the terminology is equine specific. We will discuss equine-facilitated terminology in the next blog!

Do you know what you’re working title is? If you have any questions or comments, please leave them here and a response will be provided.

Eileen Bona
Registered Psychologist
Animal Assisted Therapist
CEO/Clinical Director/Executive Director/Founder of Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy
www.dreamcatcherassociation.com



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Working with Animals in Practice

Posted by: Eileen Bona on février 26, 2020 10:26

Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) are interventions which are based upon the belief that interactions with animals have inherent value for humans on behavioural, cognitive, emotional, physical, psychological, relational and spiritual levels. AAI’s are intended to be carried out by qualified helping professionals who are trained animal handlers working with specially screened, trained and certified animals.

Although there is evidence to support the benefits of partnering with animals in all ways aforementioned and in doing Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) as a formal medium of therapeutic intervention, there is no standard code of practice in Canada.

As a psychologist who has been working in the field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) for nearly 17 years, I am excited by the momentum AAT is experiencing in Canada. I am contacted daily by Canadians who are exploring the intricacies of integrating animals into their practice and am aware of the current and interested practitioners.

There are several important ethical considerations for including animals in practice and they include the following:

  • Understanding the many terms in the field to determine where your particular practice, skills and knowledge might fit.
  • Staying within your scope of practice.  As many people are attracted to animals in practice, often practitioners are requested to work with those who may not fit into their scope.
  • Researching and attaining thorough training and certification as an animal assisted therapist. Certificates in AAI/T are available at the college level in some provinces in Canada (i.e., Alberta and Quebec) or training and arranging consultation with a credentialed, well known and ethical AAT professional.
  • Ensuring your animal has been screened, tested and certified to work with you in your setting and with your population. Animals have preferences and ‘scopes of practice’ too and these should be discerned before the animal is integrated into practice.
  • Consultations and training with skilled and trustworthy animal trainers or animal behavioral specialists who are cross-trained in AAT are vital to your animal being well prepared for its work and for you as the animal’s handler to be trained in understanding your animal’s communication and stress signals.
  • Garnering advice about working animals’ schedules and the ratio of client/animal interactions is important to the health and well being of the animal and can be attained from these professionals or the AAT professional.
  • Having a regular veterinarian who is knowledgeable about AAT, understands your species/breed and can advise on changes your animal may be experiencing is invaluable for your AAT animal’s health and welfare.
  • It is often necessary to have extended insurance coverage (alongside professional liability insurance) when involving animals in practice. Determining whether both the practitioner and the facility require insurance for the AAT is necessary.
  • Providing a waiver to participants is recommended to ensure fully informed consent for participation in AAT. The waiver should provide details of the AAT as well as a release of reliability for the therapist in the event of any unfortunate events that may occur during the AAT. The waiver requires the signature of the participant or guardians of minors.

It is an exciting time in our AAT field and I look forward to the promise of soon having approved guidelines to direct our practices and one day, a thorough Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics to govern us. Stay tuned for more-detailed Emergent Guidelines for Animals in Practice. In the meantime, I hope this information is helpful.

Eileen Bona
Registered Psychologist
Animal Assisted Therapist
CEO and Executive Director of Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy
www.dreamcatcherassociation.com



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA