While the human-animal bond helps establish the relationship between the patient and the therapy animal, further research is needed to understand why this relationship might be therapeutic. Many of the mechanisms underlying AAT focus on the innate characteristics and behavior of the animal.
In other words, the mere presence of an animal in a therapeutic context may enhance the healing process, but it does not detract from the therapist’s ability. The clinician must work in tandem with the therapy animal to achieve an optimal therapeutic outcome. In many cases, the animal serves as a motivation for the patient to adhere to the therapeutic plan.
For example, Lange et al. (2006/2007) found that when dogs were included in a teenage anger management therapy program, patients were more motivated to continue participating in the program. For many patients, working with animals is a pleasure and a new experience that helps them stay involved in the intervention process.