Frequently Asked Questions


Learn more about animal-assisted counseling.

If you or your child is interested in animal-assisted counseling, I would be happy to discuss its potential benefits with you. I welcome any questions or concerns, and look forward to working with you soon!


Austin Family Counseling
5000 Bee Caves Road Ste 100
Austin, TX 78746


What is animal-assisted counseling?

Animal-assisted counseling (AAC) is a goal-directed process in which a trained therapy animal works in partnership with a counselor to help clients resolve psychosocial challenges and achieve growth. AAC often involves using experiential and expressive interventions that include the therapy animal. Rio and I work together as a team to help clients of all ages grow and achieve their goals (Hartwig, 2018).

What are some potential benefits of AAC?

There are a variety of potential benefits for clients participating in animal-assisted counseling. The opportunity to talk about and work through the presenting issues could be a benefit of animal-assisted counseling. Additional potential benefits that have been found in AAC research include:

•  Decreasing depression, anxiety, and disruptive behavior (Hartwig, 2017),

•  Increasing positive social behaviors (Trotter, Chandler, Goodwin-Bond, & Casey, 2008),

•  Enhancing psychological health (Fine, 2006), and

•  Increase in client motivation to participate in counseling and sense of safety (Lange, Cox, Bernert, & Jenkins, 2006/2007).

The process of touching an animal partner can help clients regulate their body and their emotions. Clients may also develop better social and communication skills through the process of AAC (Hartwig, 2018).

What is Rio like?

Rio is a 2 year old border collie. He is a “Canine Good Citizen” certified through the American Kennel Club and is a graduate of the Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy at Texas State University. Rio has completed extensive training to work with clients and is always excited to meet new people. He is medium sized and weighs about 50 pounds. He is friendly, playful, and loving. He has one blue eye and one brown eye (a condition called heterochromia). Rio loves to give kisses and sit in laps when he is allowed. He curls up in a ball when he takes naps and is usually wearing a bandana around his neck. Rio cannot wait to meet you!

Will Rio always be at my counseling session?

I will always take the well-being of both my client and Rio into consideration before bringing him to session. Because Rio needs some vacation time, I cannot guarantee that he will be at every session. Additionally, if animal-assisted counseling is not a good fit for your family, I am happy to work with your child solo!

What about allergies, wellness, and hygiene?

All allergies, fear or phobias of animals, and history of animal abuse or mistreatment must be discussed before beginning treatment so the proper precautionary measures can be taken and a goodness of fit for AAC can be determined.

  • All clients and their family members must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after touching an animal partner.

  • If sick or injured, the animal partner will not be able to provide services until the illness or injury subsides or upon veterinary approval, as sickness or injury could negatively impact the animal’s behavior.

  • Although the animal partner will remain current on their vaccinations and health screenings, there is always a risk of zoönoses (i.e., human/animal-transmitted diseases) when working with an animal. Every effort will be made by the practitioner to reduce the risk of zoönoses, such as encouraging the client to wash their hands before and after interacting with the animal partner (Hartwig 2018).

  • Rio does shed, and some of his hair may end up on your clothes. I will provide a lint-roller for you use.

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