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Difference between AAT, AAA, and AAE?

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What is the difference between AAT, AAA, and AAE?

Animals have a unique ability to connect with humans and offer a range of benefits in various contexts. Three terms that are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings are animal-assisted education, animal-assisted therapy, and animal-assisted activities. In this blog article, we will explore the differences between these terms, shedding light on their specific goals, settings, and intended outcomes.

Animal-Assisted Education

Animal-assisted education refers to the intentional incorporation of animals into educational settings to enhance the learning experience. The primary goal of animal-assisted education is to promote educational objectives, such as improving academic performance, social-emotional skills, and overall engagement. Animals, typically well-trained and accompanied by handlers, are integrated into the curriculum to facilitate learning, stimulate curiosity, and create a positive and interactive environment. Examples of animal-assisted education include using therapy dogs to support reading programs or incorporating animals in nature-based lessons to foster environmental awareness.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic intervention that utilizes animals as an integral part of the therapeutic process. It involves a licensed therapist or counselor working alongside a trained animal to address specific therapeutic goals. Animal-assisted therapy is conducted in collaboration with a human professional who guides the therapeutic sessions while utilizing the unique qualities of the animal as a facilitator. The focus of animal-assisted therapy is to promote emotional well-being, facilitate personal growth, and address specific therapeutic needs. AAT can benefit individuals with various mental health conditions, developmental disorders, or physical disabilities. Examples of animal-assisted therapy include equine-assisted therapy, where horses are used to help individuals build self-confidence and improve emotional regulation, or canine-assisted therapy, which involves dogs supporting individuals with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Animal-Assisted Activities

Animal-assisted activities (AAA) encompass casual, informal, and unstructured interactions between animals and individuals in various settings. Unlike animal-assisted education or therapy, AAA does not have specific therapeutic or educational goals. Instead, the focus is on providing opportunities for socialization, emotional support, and general well-being. Animal-assisted activities often take place in places like hospitals, nursing homes, community events, or rehabilitation centers, where animals visit to bring joy, comfort, and companionship to individuals. These interactions can involve petting, playing, or simply spending time with the animals. Examples of animal-assisted activities include pet therapy visits to hospitals, where trained therapy dogs offer comfort and companionship to patients, or therapy horse visits to senior care facilities, providing opportunities for sensory stimulation and connection.


While animal-assisted education, animal-assisted therapy, and animal-assisted activities all involve the interaction between animals and humans, they serve distinct purposes and have different objectives. Animal-assisted education focuses on enhancing learning outcomes and social-emotional skills in an educational context. Animal-assisted therapy aims to address specific therapeutic goals under the guidance of a licensed professional.

Animal-assisted activities provide informal interactions and emotional support, promoting well-being in various settings. Understanding these differences allows us to appreciate the specific roles and benefits that animals can play in educational, therapeutic, and recreational contexts, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for individuals and promoting a deeper connection between humans and animals.

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