La Zoothérapie : Une Approche Thérapeutique avec les Animaux

Pet therapy

Nov 14, 2022

woman hugging her dog

What is pet therapy?

Pets generally occupy an important place in our lives. They are companions of life who watch over us and accompany us in the different stages of our lives. You may have vague memories of your childhood dog, for example. And yet, it can be the source of your loyalty in friendship, your empathy or your benevolence. Do they have benefits for our mental health? How can they help us in therapy?

Zootherapy is a psychological, sensory approach and an unconventional therapeutic technique based on the benefits of our domestic or companion animals. It is centered around the touch with the animal. Being in contact with the animal and petting it has a soothing and comforting effect. This form of therapy offers a psychological follow-up by using the proximity of animals to accompany or help the disabled, people with mental/psychological, physical, social disorders so that they feel better. Or to reduce stress, anxiety and other health problems. For example, there are several studies that demonstrate the benefits of the presence of an animal on cardiovascular problems. Many animals can be used in pet therapy. Such as horses, dogs, rabbits, cats, alpacas or even *dolphins*.


Choice of animals used

The animal's personality may make it more suitable for a particular audience. For example, a slightly shy dog ​​will demand more respect for its limits, will lead to greater empathy work but will not be suitable (because this could put it in difficulty) with people who do not control their gestures at all or cries.


*Dolphins*... for pet therapy?

Animal therapy must allow everyone to find their way around and the animal must be comfortable... However, in therapies with dolphins, there has been a strong commercial activity requiring their captivity... And consequently, a non-respect of their needs... There was indeed a fashion, but which is disappearing because the dolphins were exploited, were not free of their movements and the small enclosures did not respond to their needs...


What does a pet therapist do?

It will be the accompaniment of the zootherapist who will allow you to move forward and work on yourself. They can work only with horses or only with dogs and accompany different pathologies. It will be their feedback, their proposals, their verbalizations and the exercises that they will adapt that will allow people with different disorders to carry out this work on themselves...

The sessions are led by a practitioner accompanied by an animal. The profession of "zootherapist" does not really exist. He is first of all a therapist coming from different fields such as psychotherapy, psychiatry, paramedical or education.

For some, therapy is seen as strange. Indeed, some studies have been criticized for the lack of evidence or effectiveness of this therapy. Animals as therapists? Funny idea! But others confirm the benefits of the presence of animals for people with various disorders.

Nevertheless, the animal alone brings benefits but is not a therapist and is not enough during animal therapy or animal mediation... It will be the work and the accompaniment of the animal therapist or speaker who will allow the person to progress. and do some work on herself.


Accompaniment and animal support for people in palliative care

Animal therapy is an increasingly widespread practice. The therapy is used in the psychological field. Pet therapy can also be practiced in EHPADs (Accommodation establishment for dependent elderly people) during palliative care. Indeed, during the therapy session, the animals help the suffering or elderly people by accompanying them towards a peaceful end of life. Animals offer good moments of complicity, happiness and comfort to people who are suffering. In addition, they soothe and calm them in difficult times. People who can benefit from pet therapy are those with illnesses related to physical or psychological disorders; all types of psychological and mental disorders.

Animals used in palliative care provide affection to end-of-life patients. They are generally very affectionate, calm and gentle animals that play an important role in healing. The pet is also a source of comfort for the families and people accompanying the suffering people.

Animals are life companions when everything is going well, but not only! Pets are loyal, bring affection and unconditional love. Surrounding yourself with a benevolent animal during your last days can soothe, comfort and guide an elderly or ailing person.


The two main ways of working

Often we talk about animal-assisted activities. These include two main ways of working: animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapies .

1- Animal-assisted activities

Animal-assisted activities include all activities where the animal is associated, whether recreational, educational, educational or therapeutic... Professionals can be animators, school teachers, educators or therapists... The objectives are varied but can be recreational...

In children, animal-assisted activities promote awakening and can help on several levels: improving social skills, awakening the momentum for interaction, affiliative behaviors, the structured organization of gestures. In addition, the animal brings affective feeling and develops empathy in the child.

The therapists organize pet therapy sessions to treat several ailments. The approaches used can also:

  • Develop self-confidence.
  • Detect leadership abilities.
  • Develop motor skills.

Pet therapy can also be practiced in retirement homes through animal-assisted activities. Examples of different animal-assisted activities: hiking with animals, encountering farm animals, visits to animal farms, swimming with free-ranging marine animals, etc.

Some possible activities assisted by the animal

  • For fun.
  • For relaxation.
  • For activation.
  • For entertainment.
  • For the game.
  • For reminiscences.
  • For pleasure.
  • To get people to be fully present.
  • To strengthen social inclusion.


mom with little girl and dog

2- Animal-assisted therapies

Animal-assisted therapy is more specifically reserved for therapies, and the speaker is then a therapist... The objective is purely therapeutic (motor, sensory, cognitive stimulation, work on oneself, one's history, work on the management of emotions, self-esteem, etc.)

Animal-assisted therapy is planned and structured. The various animal-assisted interventions can be organized around rehabilitation sessions (motor, cognitive or psychological).


Who can start animal-assisted therapy and benefit from it?

People with Alzheimer's, autism , mental illnesses, people who are victims of abuse, people with post-traumatic stress or behavioral disorders, chronic disorders in the elderly, people with disabilities, terminally ill people , depression, cognitive impairment, among others.

Following a therapy centered around the animal brings many benefits in terms of physical and mental health. He is the intermediary between the therapist and the patient, and allows the therapist to enter more easily into contact and relationship with the patient.

Animal-assisted therapy provides a trusting therapeutic setting and is considered an enjoyable intervention in which the animal is a mediator that calls for social interactions.


To know more

If you want to know more about zootherapy / animal mediation or, to train yourself to practice this beautiful profession, you can consult and/or contact Audrey Comte via the Zootherapy website:
animal-assisted therapy 👉 | 👉 facebook | 👉 instagram .

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