Animal Assisted Therapy.....

Where your love of animals can help you in your journey to healing, health and happiness!
If you find yourself feeling calmer and soothed by being around some furry friends, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) might be the therapeutic fit you’ve been looking for. We are proud to offer Animal Assisted Therapy right here at TGC. 

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a goal-oriented, planned, structured, therapeutic intervention conducted by health and human service providers as part of their profession (Pet Partners, 2018).

AAT is evidence based therapy, using human-animal bond to help clients find healing. Research shows that we bond with animals in the same way we bond with our children and loved ones (Johnson, 2014). Animals provide a secure attachment and safe haven for people who may be nervous about coming to counseling, have had a traumatic experience, or for motivation to change. Animals can clients restore feelings of hope and self-worth, and be a resource for enacting self-soothing and distress tolerance skills.

During an AAT session, clients will focus on working with an animal in the here and now in order to integrate awareness, personal choice, boundaries, coping skills, and responsibility. Clients will discover new skills and implements them into new ways of thinking and coping.

(If you are considering a service animal for yourself outside of AAT, Matthew can help you with finding appropriate training for your dog, and will provide education on your rights and responsibilities that come along with having a service dog.)

Not every client is a good match for AAT. If you are interested in AAT, please schedule a consultation with Matthew, our AAT therapist.


……a bit more about our AAT therapy team, Matthew and Jake:


Matthew Lonski, MA, NCE, has been a dog lover his entire life. He has grown up with dogs and strongly believes in the human-animal bond as being a catalyst for therapy. He has seen firsthand, how a dog can help someone turn their life around. Matthew conducts AAT with his co-therapist, Jake.


Jake is a highly trained therapy dog (aka animal therapist) here at TGC. He works along side Matthew to provide AAT, in conjunction with other evidence based practices such as CBT, DBT, EFT, etc.  Jake is a one year old purebred AKC golden retriever. Jake loves going to work, playing fetch, taking walks, and absolutely LOVES people!


Can I bring my dog or animal to my therapy sessions?
If you have a service animal and would like to discuss how your animal could be useful in AAT, Matthew can guide you in that process, determine if your dog will be therapeutic, safe, and helpful during sessions and ensuring you know your rights regarding having a service animal. If you are interested in including your dog in therapy, a separate evaluation is required for you and your furry friend.

Our dog therapist Jake has gone through significant, specialized training in order to work for TGC. In order to be helpful to clients, Jake has had to learn how to be a therapy dog; this entails obeying commands and resisting temptation beyond what a typical pet is expected to do, such as taking human food, jumping on kids, barking excessively, being aggressive, or biting. 

Is Jake Certified?
Unfortunately, there is no official certification for therapy animals. However, at TGC we take great care in how we conduct AAT. Matthew is trained in AAT and oversees our growing AAT program. His co-therapist,  Jake is currently obtaining his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen. 
Can I choose to work with a therapy bird/ turtle / cat / peacock/ etc?
This is a common question – what choices do you, as a client, have, in working with a therapy animal.   In the state of Illinois, only dogs and miniature equine (horses) are considered therapy animals; anything outside of that is not a therapy animal.  At TGC, we like working with Jake in therapy settings.  However, a legal classification doesn’t have to stop you from bonding with your animals in a way that is soothing and reassuring, in your own home by adapting some of the AAT tools you may learn with Matt and Jake, for your own pets.
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