Dr. Petrongelli utilizes and applies Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP) as an ancillary tool to traditional psychotherapy practice(s). Meaning most specifically, once you are an established client in our practice the use of a therapy animal will be offered during individual and group sessions. The use of the therapy animal(s) are present during therapeutic sessions. The shear presence of the animals assists with feelings of vulnerability, ease of disclosure, visual and tactical assurance, acceptance, support and companionship. Experiencing senses of comforting and touch supports communication and offers unconditional acceptance. AAP has been proven to be beneficial not only for the human individuals involved, but also the animals. Each experiencing positive results from the attention received from the other.
Our practice offers AAP to clients who are interested in adding another dimension of care to psychotherapy treatments. The introduction and incorporation of a therapeutic animal into a traditional one-on-one in person session is initiated after a client expresses interest in this modality. Dr. Petrongelli may suggest the use of AAP with a client if she feels as though a client can benefit from the intervention. As clearly stated from both research and professional applications, the interventions of AAP can be impactful and heighten therapeutic experiences for a client. Please keep in mind, the AAP which Dr. Petrongelli recommends and or applies, is NOT a replacement for traditional forms of psychotherapy, and/or medications but used as an adjunctive component with these treatments. All treatment modalities will need to be working in tandem to achieve optimal therapeutic effectiveness. Prior to participating in AAP, a client must complete the Informed Consent for Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy Consent (see Forms). Clients seeking AAP will have the option of using one or several of our Practice Therapy Animals (Link).
Dr. Petrongelli has extensive experience working with animals in both her personal and professional life. AAP are approaches to aspects of mental health care that incorporate animals into the psychotherapy process, emphasizing the bond created during human-animal interactions. Emotional recovery, positive psychological transformation, and aspects of proactive teaching can often occur when the relationship between an individual and the therapy animal grows.
Improved mood and reduced anxiety tend to be consistent results with AAP. Individuals who perceive hostility or disregard from other humans may come to accept the nonjudgmental and unconditional affection and attention from an animal, instead. Studies of AAP demonstrate these results in nearly all participants, regardless of age, the duration of the session, or the severity of symptoms, have produced positive benefits results.
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests animals provide a significant calming and therapeutic effect on patients with psychological disorders. People who interact with animals for the purpose of therapy may experience improvements in health, including:
Improved mood and reduced anxiety tend to be consistent results with AAP. Individuals who perceive hostility or disregard from other humans often accept the nonjudgmental and unconditional affection and attention from an animal.
Types of AAP Our Practice Offers
Professionals administering or overseeing AAP can be effective with many types of animals, depending on the preferences and personal needs of a person in therapy. Animals that serve in various therapy capacities include, but are not limited to, horses, dogs, dolphins, fish, birds, and small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
Owning a therapy or companion animal, such as a dog trained to sense and alleviate anxiety, is loosely considered a type of AAP. AAP, by definition, involves the active participation of a mental health professional. People of any age see benefits from interacting with animals in a psychotherapy setting. For example, adolescent girls who are unable to express physical and emotional comfort and closeness with others, or find it difficult to do so, may more readily form that type of bond with a cat or dog. This unique bond can help the child develop traits like patience, respect, empathy, acceptance, confidence, assertiveness, and responsibility. The unspoken communication between child and animal can foster verbal and nonverbal communication skills in the child. All of these attributes help offer children to maintain secure and mutually respectful relationships during difficult times throughout their lives.
Further studies have identified AAP as an intervention which offers positive impacts on aging individuals and the elderly. AAP can be especially effective for people who used to have dogs or other animals but are no longer able to care for their own animal. Being in the presence of pets again can help remind people of the love they had for previous animals, stirring memories and reducing loneliness.
A wide variety of animals can assist individuals in psychotherapy, and some may need to exercise caution around some animals. As a rule, any animal with a mouth can BITE. Despite the temperamental assessments and obedience training each and every animal has received, there is always the possibility that under stress or unpredictable stimuli one of our Practice Animal can act out and injure a client. This is the reality when working with animals. Some people may experience allergies to some animals or to their environments.
Prior to seeking AAP, a client is encouraged to consult with their medical provider to evaluate if have they have any health concerns that might affect or complicate an experience with AAP.
Dr. Petrongelli's AAP approach is unique in its ability to combine thinking, feeling and behaving within one collaborative intervention. Working with the animals is a hands-on, experiential exercise where clients no longer just talk about their issues but are engaged in activities that elicit honest behaviors and feelings.
There are numerous reasons why animals are included in sessions and why AAP might be a good fit for a client. Animals can reduce physiological and psychological stress signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure, which allows clients to feel calmer and less anxious during sessions and thus more able to engage in therapy.
Dr. Petrongelli along with the client, will determine if and when a therapy animals is an appropriate fit for individual psychotherapy. Once determined to be the appropriate fit, a therapy animal will be invited to participate. Our therapy animals are empathic, nonjudgmental, affectionate and offer unconditional positive regard. Our animals are fun and energizing, which can be a welcome change for clients who have previously had unsuccessful therapeutic experiences.
This atmosphere of emotional safety, facilitates the development of a therapeutic bond and encourages rapport leading to increased disclosure and openness. Within Dr. Petrongelli's practice, she has found once animals are integrated into psychotherapy sessions clients are more motivated, greater engaged, and more compliant as they face returning to psychotherapy.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) or Psychiatric Support Animals (PSA) are designated for people who are distressed. Theses animals offer a constant, comforting presence while a person is experiencing symptoms from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, adjustment disorder, autism, bipolar, and more. In order to have support animals in various public and residential areas, individuals need to obtain an Emotional Support Letter (ESL) or Psychiatric Support Letter (PSL).
Our practice provides evaluations for the use of an ESA/PSA. Once completed, and determined an animal helps alleviate symptoms and brings therapeutic benefits, a letter is provided. This letter confirms a clients need for the support animal, defines the capacity in which the animal is utilized, and states the clients is under the care of a licensed health care provider.
Ethic codes for health and mental health professional forbid providing information about a patient's psychological condition to third parties for nonclinical purposes. Our practice takes the role very seriously when assessing a client's need for an ESA/PSA. Clients need to be aware this assessment involves an evaluation for a psychological disability. In that a person needing an ESA has such a disability and that the presence of the animal addresses that disability.
ESA/PSA evaluations include, not limited to:
- Client understands the evaluation may result in a diagnosis which could impact their medical health records.
- Client will sign an appropriate informed consent form and
understand that if the letter is shared with others, they are revealing private health information.
- Emotional support animals are not required by
the FHA to be trained. This is due to the fact that the animal’s company alone acts as an alleviating factor in aiding with emotional impairments, including depression and anxiety.
A letter or document, known as Emotional Support Letter (ESL)/Psychiatric Support Letter (PSL) from a medical or mental health professional is required for a person to own a dog, cat, or any other animal classified as a support animal. Even if a property or public transportation entity has a “no pets” rule, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) states that the service or support animal must be allowed.
ESL/PSL contains several elements, as follows:
- A mental health diagnosis (DSM-V).
- Explain how the animal helps alleviate that condition.
- Describe clinical observations of how the animal, the interaction, and duration of the interaction occurs.
- Explain negative effects of not having the animal present.
- Detail any training the animal has received, if applicable.
TIBETAN TERRIER MIX
5 - 6 YEARS OLD
REGISTERED THERAPY ANIMAL
HILDEGARD - "HILDIE"
DOMESTIC SHORT HAIR
5 YEARS OLD
THERAPY AND COMFORT ANIMAL
BICHON FRISÉ POODLE MIX
5 YEARS OLD
THERAPY AND COMFORT ANIMAL
RUSSIAN BLUE MIX
2-3 YEARS OLD
EMOTIONAL AND COMFORT ANIMAL
2- 3 YEARS
DOMESTIC SHORT HAIR
1.5 YEARS OLD
THERAPY AND COMFORT ANIMAL
DOMESTIC LONG HAIR
7 YEARS OLD
REGISTERED THERAPY AND COMFORT ANIMAL
When clients are looking to engage in emotional and support animal-assisted therapies
outside of psychotherapy sessions, Therapy House will be offering innovational options.
Therapy House is a a division of Créme de la Créme Animal Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Please look for us to open this Summer, 2022!