A Denver-area non-profit that uses animals in professional therapy sessions is breaking new ground in Colorado.
Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado, employing mostly rescued animals, is treating patients at rates far lower than those in traditional practices.
"Our intent was to make services affordable to anyone," said the founder, Dr. Linda Chassman. "A non-profit keeps rates low. It's not about making a lot of money."
Chassman said 75 percent of her clients pay $15 an hour for treatment. To qualify, they have to be making less than $40,000 a year. The other 25 percent of clients are full-pay.
The non-profit counts on fees, grants and donations to operate, Chassman said.
"I'm not aware of another program like it in Colorado," she added.
The AATPC website spells out the reason why.
"At AATPC we provide professional Animal Assisted Therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is not the same as Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), where volunteers bring their animals to visit with individuals in need. While Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a relatively new field, much research has been conducted that demonstrates the power that animals can have in the emotional and physical healing of people. "
The therapy animals were chosen to be pet partners "because they have demonstrated keen instincts of the needs of others, while also being calm, patient and tolerant," the site said.
The animals become involved in a full range of therapy. A cat calms an agitated married couple, which allows them to start talking to each other. A dog becomes a silent confidante of a traumatized child, who is finally able to put feelings into words.
The non-profit has about 20 animals - including horses and goats - that live in a one-acre enclosure at the rear of a 100-year-old cottage in Lakewood called the "Barking C.A.A.T. Ranch (CAAT stands for Colorado Animal-Assisted Therapy).
The agency has about 15 volunteers who take care of them.
"Our clients love it," Chassman said. "It is peaceful, calm and non-traditional. It's satisfying for me ... wonderful to see clients and how comfortable they feel. If you have to be in therapy it's a nice way to do it."
The non-profit also operates an office in Boulder. There are a total of eight therapists and interns.
AATPC is currently competing for a grant through Idea Cafe, a site for small businesses. The business getting the most votes wins the grant. You can vote online by visiting the Idea Cafe website and linking to the conest, If AATPC wins the grant, it will fund a handicap construction project at the ranch. The contest closes Feb. 14.
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