top of page

Animal Assisted Counselling & Psychotherapy

2022-01-06 11.45_edited.jpg
2020-10-11 14.40_edited.jpg

Sometimes the thought of attending counselling and psychotherapy can be daunting, confronting and overwhelming. We can be concerned that we have to relive old traumas, go over past hurts and talk about distressing events. Animal Assisted Counselling and Psychotherapy can provide a gentle and nurturing space to rest whilst sensitively and intuitively exploring your connection to inner wisdom and healing. 

*Rebates are available through selected private health funds*

Meet the Team




Trooper - retired

Crazy Girl_edited.jpg

Tinker - retired

Diego Hay_edited_edited.jpg




Animal Assisted Counselling & Psychotherapy

I can incorporate animals into my practice for people that are interested in having a therapy animal be a part of their sessions. An important part of Animal Assisted Counselling and Psychotherapy (AACP) is it is both voluntary for humans as well as the therapy animal. The interaction between the human and the animal is to be mutually voluntary, respectful and consensual (ATL, 2021; Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, et al., 2019). As such, initial contact will entail a brief health and psychological screen to discern your eligibility to participate.


Guidelines are provided on expected behaviours for interaction with the therapy animal. You will also have an opportunity to ask questions at any point throughout the process.

There are three broad ways in which therapy animals can be included in counselling and psychotherapy. Firstly by the animal simply being a presence in the counselling space, secondly by bringing purposeful attention to the animal or the animal gaining your attention, and thirdly by purposeful interaction between yourself and the therapy animal (Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, 2019).

Involving a therapy animal in session can provide a sense of comfort and support for people that may otherwise find the counselling space challenging. A relaxed therapy animal can help enhance a person’s experience of emotional safety in session and promote capacity for relaxation and augment feelings of calmness (Chandler, 2017). A well-adjusted therapy animal can provide an opportunity to implicitly set the tone of a counselling session to support openness and curiosity in both yourself and the counsellor (Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, 2019). Observing a relaxed therapy animal can facilitate people to consider ways they might be able to initiate their own relaxation response or bring more awareness to the ways in which they already have an innate capacity for relaxation (Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, 2019). A therapy animal can also create a shared talking point to deepen the relationship with the counsellor, and improve rapport and thus potential for therapeutic change (Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, 2019).

The presence of a well-trained, well-adjusted therapy animal can provide an opportunity to deepen and enhance the usual room-based therapeutic process such as to deepen self-awareness, support the processing of difficult internal experiences, enhance positive resourcing and healing, and learn new ways of being and relating through interaction with an animal (Chandler, 2017; MacNamara, 2019).

Chandler (2017) describes a range of “Significant Human-Animal Relational Moments” as potentially rich for therapeutic exploration and opportunity for change (Chandler, 2017, p. 147). They are the greeting, acknowledgement of communication, speculative, interpretive, comfort, assurance and checking in. In utilising these points of exploration, Animal Assisted Counselling and Psychotherapy (MacNamara, 2019) outlines the importance, in ethical and respectful relationships, to hold the curiosity of the animals' experience from the perspective of the animal, rather than what a client or therapist might project onto the animal. This in itself can be a transformative experience.

Chandler (2017) goes on to state:

                                                             “The most notable benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy within Counselling include:

(1) increasing client motivation to attend and participate in therapy sessions;

(2) enhancing the client’s sense of emotional safety and calm during sessions;

(3) increasing client focus and attention during sessions;

(4) receiving nurturance;

(5) facilitating growth and healing for clients through client-therapy animal interactions” (Chandler, 2017, p. 184).


Terms and conditions for participants interacting with the Therapy Animals


  1. The Counsellor will assess the participant to see if they are a good fit for AACP.

  2. All animals have different temperaments and natures. Even though the animals involved in AACP at Tropical Wellbeing have been assessed for temperament and suitability and gone through a training program, all animals are potentially unpredictable, especially if frightened, hurt or mistreated.

  3. The counsellor will take all care possible and follow clear safety guidelines for the benefit of the participants and animals.

  4. The participants will be offered a safety guidelines by the counsellor which supports the participant in being safe, aware and making safe choices in all sessions with animals.

  5. The participant agrees not to deliberately frighten, hurt or mistreat the animals and to follow safety guidelines. The participant agrees they will treat all animals involved in the program gently, respectfully and sensitively.

  6. Just like people, animals sometimes do not want to participate in a particular activity. In the event the animals do not want to participate in a particular way, as indicated through their body language and the counsellor’s judgement, the participant will respect the animals communication and be guided by the counsellor/ supervisors’ directions.

  7. Certain risks are involved including but not limited to unforeseen collisions and accidents.

  8. Knowing the potential risks, the participant accepts that Tropical Wellbeing and staff at Tropical Wellbeing do not accept any liability for accident, damage or injury to the participant/s or property.

  9. All directions by staff at Tropical Wellbeing must be observed.

  10. Participants are responsible for wearing suitable, enclosed toe shoes, when interacting with horses.

  11. If participants do not comply with the conditions set out in this application, or in the opinion of staff at Tropical Wellbeing, engages in misconduct, discourteous or hazardous behaviour, then participant in sessions will be reviewed or cancelled.

  12. Anyone who has contact with animals can possibly get zoonotic diseases; however, people with weakened immune system, children five years or younger, elderly and pregnant women are more at risk.

  13. In the event of an accident of any kind, the participant must report this to staff immediately or at the end of the session.

  14. In the event of serious accident or injury where an ambulance or medical treatment is required, the participant/s are responsible for any costs that may be incurred




  1. NEVER intentionally threaten the animals. Just like humans, animals have an autonomic nervous system that can activate into a strong fight, flight or freeze response when they feel threatened. This means an animal may move quickly, lick, growl, bite, scratch or kick if they perceive threat.
    2. You are in charge of your BOUNDARIES. Only interact with animals at a level you feel safe. Know how to ask an animal to leave your personal space or know how to leave an animals personal space, without harming you or the animal.
    3. Your AWARENESS keeps you safe. Awareness of your autonomic nervous system and how you feel, awareness of the animals and their state of being, awareness of how the animals are moving and interacting with one another and their environment. Your awareness of the quality of the relationship you share with the animals. Awareness of your stress indicators and the animals stress indicators will help you respond appropriately to an animal that may be about to respond defensively.
    4. ENSURE the animal is aware of your presence before approaching. This will reduce the likelihood of an animal reacting unexpectedly when taken by surprise.
    5. Ask for HELP. If unsure, ask for help or communicate your uncertainty. The counsellor is there to help you keep safe. Ultimately your safety is your responsibility.

bottom of page