Animal Assisted Therapy Essay

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Animal-assisted therapy (hereafter: AAT), which refers to planned intervention of animals with the aim to improve patients’ physical, psychological and cognitive well-beings (ESAAT, 2011), has been considered as a complementary of the health care services in foreign countries like the United States. In Hong Kong, however, AAT has not yet received proper recognition until recent years. With around 30 thousand individuals suffering from stress-related disorders in the territory (Hospital Authority, 2015), incorporating AAT into patient’s treatment plan would worth detailed consideration. This paper would first discuss how people suffering acute stress can benefit from AAT in both physiological, psychological and cognitive perspectives, followed by a general recommendation on whether AAT should be widely adopted in the context Hong Kong.

Firstly, AAT copes with the stress-related psychological problems by means of hormone adjustment. Human body would release cortisol to stimulate metabolism like glycogenolysis, which initially help mobilize energy in times of dealing with stress or complex tasks.
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Humans may experience anxiety, either anticipatory or situational, whenever burdened by complex tasks. However, forming close and long-term bonds with animals would offer people a secure base to explore new and uncertain environments. As suggested by Phelan (2009), people coupled with therapy animals demonstrated greater willingness to explore painful experience. Such finding could be explained by the Theory of Cognitive Appraisal (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) – particularly in the primary appraisal stage, people accompanied by an animal may feel less tense about the stressor since they perceive it as a challenge rather than a threat. Thus, patients appears to have higher self-efficacy and more positive attitudes towards the stressful events in situations where animals are
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