It’s long been thought that animals offer a therapeutic benefit, but now a Colorado counseling practice is among the first to make animals an official part of the therapy process.

Whether counseling couples or treating children who are struggling, therapists at Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado say dogs and cats can calm the mood and help people open up.

For example, an animal will tend to walk away if a couple starts to fight. In response therapists say that couples will often tone down their conversations because they want the dog or cat to stay near. Similarly, children can identify with rescue animals at the practice because they understand that the pets have been through a lot themselves, making it okay to share problems.

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In addition to the in-house pets at the practice therapists also involve patients’ own pets, who are invited to come in for counseling sessions or can be trained at home to help ease tensions.

Experts say that using pets in therapy is a trend that will likely expand nationally as more research is done on the therapeutic benefits of animals, reports The Denver Post. To read more click here.