Aim of AAT
It is really important to recognise that Animal Assisted Therapy “is an intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process… delivered by a health professional with specialised expertise” (SCAS).
There are many roles in which an animal can assist. A petting animal, a reading dog, a school dog.
The aim of working with the guinea pigs in this counselling setting with a qualified psychotherapist, means a more in-depth and therapeutic intervention.
We can explore thoughts and feelings directly through the ‘media’ of the guinea pig. This can be really powerful work.
Working with animals in this way, we can consider what their needs are/what they are feeling and parallel this to what we are feeling and experiencing. If we can consider another’s need in a caring way, we can perhaps consider our own.
To this end, we must be clear that AAT Animals are working and we need to respect this.
Qualification of the Therapist
As a qualified BACP Counsellor/Psychotherapist, Dawn has completed additional training to offer Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in this setting. She has regular AAT Supervision with a qualified AAT Supervisor, to ensure that she is offering best practice with regards to both the client and the animals.
Both her and the AAT Animals have appropriate insurance to be working in this setting. This includes 3rd party liability insurance.
Dawn has owned and rescued animals since she was small. She really understands and wants to share the benefits of working with animals in her therapeutic role with clients.
Owner’s (Dawn’s) Responsibilities
At all times, Dawn remains the sole owner of the guinea pigs. Any decisions around their health and welfare remain her responsibility, in collaboration with the vet and their advice. Should any concern arise for their welfare, this needs to be directed to both Dawn and the setting in which she is working with the guinea pigs.
Dawn will make the final decision on the suitability of the AAT intervention for a client. This will take into account the safety and welfare of ALL involved. Any ‘in the moment’ decision which is made by Dawn, will be discussed with Dawn’s AAT Supervisor (and if appropriate the parent/care giver).
Any practical concerns i.e. the cleaning up of mess, cleaning their enclosure, safeguarding the guinea pigs, remains the responsibility of Dawn.
Animal Welfare – daily and long-term
On a daily basis, Dawn will check and monitor the guinea pigs for their health and wellbeing. She will check their eyes and ears and fur. She will make sure that they are eating and weeing and pooing ok. Guinea pigs have 37 different squeaks! As an experienced owner, we come to recognise what some of these mean.
If Dawn has any concern for their welfare, she will always contact her vet for advice.
The guinea pigs will visit the vet every 6months for a health and welfare check. This will be documented. The vet will check the guinea pigs and advise Dawn of any concerns around their health or wellbeing.
Dawn is committed to the wellbeing of animals and strongly adheres to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. As she safeguards her clients/children, she also promotes and actively safeguards her animals, whether working or pets.
With this in mind, she will constantly be reviewing and monitoring the hours that the guinea pigs are working.
Housing at Setting
The guinea pigs will have an enclosure in Dawn’s Therapy Room, which will be placed on her cabinet. The guinea pigs will be able to see out, have a house inside for hiding and have a water bottle (this will be water from Dawn’s house, so they are used to it) and dried food and hay at all times. When working, the guinea pigs will have a packed lunch of fresh fruit and veggies which clients can feed to them. The enclosure will be lined with washable fleece and some hay which the guinea pigs can eat and snuggle in. The fleece will be taken home with Dawn in a bag daily and a fresh one put in. The hay will be as much dust removed as possible.
There will be a light blanket which can be placed over the guinea pig enclosure to calm them and allow them to be ‘off duty’.
There will be a guinea pig handling policy printed and laminated in all the rooms where the guinea pigs work. The guinea pigs will be presented to the client in a shallow fleece-lined box. They can be inquisitive and see out and the children can stroke them and monitor them safely. Depending on the client and guinea pig/s one or two AAT guinea pigs maybe be worked with at a time.
Where AAT Guinea Pigs will be permitted
The guinea pigs will be working in Dawn’s Therapy Room. Travel to this space will be with Dawn in a contained animal carrier.
Written consent will be required by anyone who may come into contact with the guinea pigs. This will be one-to-one counselling sessions. A separate AAT information and signed consent form will be required by all those working with the guinea pigs. Under 18year old clients, will need this document signed by their parent/care giver.
The guinea pigs and Dawn both have appropriate insurance to be working in this therapeutic setting. This includes public liability insurance should they cause harm to anyone or be the cause of an accident whilst working. This can be evidenced by Dawn upon request. There is also a comprehensive Risk and Benefit Assessment and Handling Document which will be shared prior to commencement of any Animal Assisted intervention. Copies of all documents will be available at all times in Dawn's Therapy room.
(compiled July 2023, reviewed annually)
Dawn Hamblett - Dip. Psych. Couns. MBACP
Counsellor / Psychotherapist /
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