Animal Assisted Therapy

We offer animal-assisted therapy (AAT) by appointment and a weekly drop-in hour. Appointments to meet with the CMHS dog therapy team are by request and based on availability. Available at the SMFA and Medford Campuses. 

If you are you interested in having an animal assisted therapy event, please contact the Health Promotion and Prevention for assistance: Ian.Wong@tufts.edu.

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Free CMHS Groups

AAT Sessions with Angel at CMHS
You may schedule a 15 minute AAT appointment with Angel the Puggle on Thursdays between 1pm - 2pm. Call 617-627-3360 to schedule or email megan.tucker@tufts.edu for more information. 
Pause for Paws: AAT and Relaxation Techniques

When/Where: Monthly at the Latinx Center
All Tufts students welcome. No sign-up needed. Subscribe to the CMHS Newsletter for event reminders.
For questions, please email: megan.tucker@tufts.edu

Meet Angel, Our Therapy Dog!

Angel

Angel's Stats

Angel is a very sweet and energetic Puggle Mix and was adopted from a rescue organization in the fall of 2012 by Dr. Tucker. She was likely born in 2008 or 2009, stands 13 inches high, and weighs approximately 16 pounds. Angel has been working as a therapy dog since August 2018 in the Tufts Counseling and Mental Health Center Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

Angel's Training and Certification
Dr. Tucker and Angel are registered through Pet Partners, a nationally recognized, not-for-profit organization.  A major goal of the Pet Partners is to bring animal-assisted therapy to people who would benefit from such therapy.
 
To be registered in the Pet Partner program, the CMHS AAT team fulfilled the following requirements:
  • Dr. Tucker completed a Pet Partners Team Training Course.
  • Angel and Dr. Tucker passed the Pet Partners Aptitude Test (PPAT—a temperament screening) to determine if they have the ability, capacity, desire and potential for participating in AAT programs. 
  • Angel and Dr. Tucker passed the Pet Partners Skills Test (PPST)—a test designed to assess the “good behavior” skills of the animal-handler team.
  • Angel’s health was screened by a veterinarian. She is current on all vaccinations, free of any signs of ill health, is house-trained, free of internal and external parasites, and is cleaned and groomed within 24 hours prior to each visit.
To be a Registered Animal Therapy Team through Pet Partners, the dog must demonstrate good foundational obedience skills including a reliable “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come when called,” and “leave it.” A dog must be a minimum of one (1) year of age and have a sound temperament. Precise obedience skills are not required; however, the handler must have control of their animal.
 
The dog must also demonstrate the following:
  • Is comfortable being crowded by a group of people
  • People-oriented/sociable, friendly and confident
  • Will initiate contact, stay engaged, make eye contact, and allow their behaviors to be re-directed
  • Able to cope with stressful situations
  • Knows how to respect personal boundaries
  • Is non-aggressive towards animals and people
  • Is comfortable being touched, at times awkwardly
  • Is controllable, predictable and reliable
  • Well-mannered interactions with other animals
  • Reliability despite distractions
  • Ability to be cued from different positions
  • Able to disregard food or toys on cue, i.e. with a “leave it” command
  • Comfort level around health care equipment
 
What does a Therapy Dog Do?

Over the course of the last several years, there has been an emerging understanding that the presence of a qualified therapy animal team can have a beneficial emotional and physiological impact within a therapeutic setting.  The literature suggests that the presence of a therapy animal in psychotherapy may “ease the stress of the initial phases of therapy to establish rapport” (Fine, 2006). The presence dogs presence may soothe, comfort, distract or reduce anxiety while a student engages in therapy, a process that, at times, may stir up difficult emotions.

A therapy animal may also elicit a range of emotions or feelings for students. “Sharing these feelings with or about the animal can initiate the emotional sharing process with the counselor” (. For the client, the animal is seen as a friend and ally, thus presenting a safe atmosphere for sharing. The animal offers nurturance through a presentation of unconditional acceptance and interaction. The experience of a client interacting with an animal can provide knowledge about boundaries and limit setting by observing and imitating the counselor-animal interactions. (“Sophie, Certified Therapy”, 2014)

How can I participate in the AAT Program?

Animal Assisted Therapy Teams are available for appointments by request. Please note that there may be a wait until you’re able to be seen by the dog therapy team. If you’re seeking counseling for a more urgent concern, please contact the Counseling and Mental Health Center and ask to be seen by one of our available clinicians. To Make An Appointment call us at x73360 or at 617-627-3360 (cell or off-campus phone). For Mental Health Emergencies: During Office Hours - Call x73360 & state emergency. After Office Hours Emergencies- Call TUPD at 617-627-3030 to have the on-call counselor paged.

References
  • Fine, A. H. (2006). Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press.
  • Quick Links. (n.d.). Pet Partners®. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from https://www.petpartners.org/
  • Sophie, Certified Therapy Dog | SUNY Geneseo. (n.d.). Sophie, Certified Therapy Dog | SUNY Geneseo. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from Mission Statement / Meet Our Staff | SUNY Geneseo.