The rabbit will see you now.
At the Barking C.A.A.T. Ranch in Lakewood,, therapy animals help their human counterparts provide various forms of therapy for clients who need it.
The ranch (C.A.T.T. stands for Center for Animal Assisted Therapy) is the headquarters of Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado (AATPC), which claims to operate the largest comprehensive counseling and professional training center in animal-assisted therapy and psychotherapy in North America.
The names may be a mouthful but the concept is simple.
“We believe in the therapeutic and calming effect that animals can have in healing,” says the practice’s website. ”Each of our clinicians works with at least one certified therapy animal, which may include dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, rats or goats.”
“All animals are rescued or re-homed,” said Linda Chassman, executive director and co-founder of AATPC. “They have a wonderful life here.
“Sitting down with a therapist for 50 minutes is not always the best option,” Chassman added. “People have a love of animals, knowing these animals have something to give.
“We have found therapy with many animals can be so rich,” she said. “The therapy is very dynamic. So much going on – how clients and animals relate to each other. It’s a much more real world. “
Chassman’s business was first launched in Denver in 2010 with co-founder Ellen Winston. They had two therapy animals, a cat and a dog.
Since then, the headquarters has been moved to a 102-year-old cottage at Barking C.A,T.T, Ranch, and a satellite office has been opened in Boulder. Another is planned in Evergreen.
“Its really a haven, you don’t feel like you’re 5 minutes from Denver,” Chassman said of the ranch.
But the biggest changes are that AATPC is now a nonprofit program that offers low-cost care to economically disadvantaged clients, as well an International Certifficate Program that provides training in animal-assisted therapy to participants who come from around the world.
“The idea of becoming a non-profit was to provide therapy to anyone who needed it,” Chassman said. “We didn’t want making money to be the focus.”
Running the ranch and taking care of the animals is an expensive proposition. As any rancher knows, providing hay to horses alone can be a big expense.
“Animal care takes up about a third of our budget,” she said. “”We are definitely relying on donations as well (as fees).”
The ranch has other fundraising tools, such as animal sponsorships in which people can come to meet the animals and hold events on the property.
Twenty-five volunteers help care for the animals, feeding, grooming and walking them.
Chassman’s goal is to branch out in Colorado, offering low-cost services ranging from divorce therapy to issues faced by children and veterans and general abuse and trauma.
“Absolutely every dream of mine centers on doing work I really believe in, Chassman said. “Its been really a wonderful opportunity, Now therapists all over the world want to replicate it.”
For further information:(www.animalassistedtherapyprograms.org)
Go to (Sashahelps.com) to donate to the AATPC and the scholarship program.
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