Definition: Zootherapist Job Description

A specialist in well-being and relaxation, the zootherapist or animal mediator relies on the natural links between humans and animals to create a relationship of trust and promote the appeasement of the latter.

Is working with animals your goal? Discover this little-known profession which can be extremely effective in the context of different therapies: the zootherapist.

Profession of zootherapist

What is a zootherapist?

Numerous studies tend to prove the benefits that the presence of an animal can provide to humans both on physical and psychological health: reduction in stress, depression, blood pressure and heart rate, increased blood pressure. ‘mood.

Based on this observation, zootherapy (also called therapy assisted by the animal or mediated by the animal) was born in the 1950s and refers to a set of unconventional therapeutic methods (in the same way as naturopathy or osteopathy) using a domestic or companion animal as a mediator with various people who present:

  • Physical disorders, disability;
  • Psychological, emotional disorders; hyperactivity; depression, schizophrenia, autism;
  • Social difficulties, delinquency;
  • Isolation, loneliness;
  • Hospitalization, postoperative recovery;
  • Alzheimer’s disease, etc.

It does not replace conventional therapy but rather comes as a complement.

The objective of the zootherapist is to create a relationship of trust between the animal and the beneficiary in order to promote its appeasement and relaxation.

To achieve this, the professional rigorously selects his animals according to health, behavior and education standards. Several months of training will then be necessary.

The zootherapist can work with several animals to determine which one will be best for the patient.

Often appointed animal mediator, the zootherapist has medical and/or psychological training.

Various animals can be involved in these therapies. When they use the horse, it is hippotherapy, equitherapy or therapy with the horse according to the proposed approach. They can also use other animals such as dogs (cynotherapy), rabbits, cats, dolphins (dolphin therapy)

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Missions of the zootherapist

To carry out his missions, the zootherapist performs a wide variety of tasks:

  • Observation of interactions between animal and beneficiary
  • Study of the request, the patient’s situation and his pathology
  • Reflection on the intervention program and adaptation of its procedure to the types of animals
  • Selection of the type of animal according to pathologies and needs
  • Evaluation of its interventions
  • Updating of his knowledge of “animal reading” and psychological pathologies
  • Respect for the rules of prudence, ethics and safety
  • Respect for animal welfare
  • Dressage
  • Encourages the autonomy of the person
  • Restoration of bodily and psychological balance

Benefits of pet therapy

For kids

Children and animals are generally very comfortable with each other. For small patients with attentional disorders (ADD) or behavior, pet therapy helps develop social skills, empathy and self-control. For others, it will be learning to control their impulsivity, knowing how to tame their fear or regain self-confidence.

For adults

Animals are a source of motivation and commitment for adults and allow them to rediscover the desire to do activities and find a social life. This therapy is also used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders.

For old people

Often used in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the animal promotes the memory of past experiences, and therefore stimulates cognitive functions. The presence of the animal also brings relaxation and appeasement.

The specialties of the Zootherapist

Like many practitioners, the zootherapist can also specialize in several types of sessions:

Animal assisted therapy

This therapy generally aims to resolve a specific disorder in the patient: anxiety, aggressiveness, withdrawal into oneself, etc. The sessions are individual and will essentially be based on progressive support with the animal. The zootherapists who practice in AAT generally have training in the psycho-medico-social field: social worker, occupational therapist, psychologist, nurse, etc.

Animal assisted activities

This therapy consists of group activities such as observation of the animal, feeding, daily care, games. Their overall objective is to achieve fulfillment and improve the quality of life of beneficiaries. These zootherapists are often trained as a specialist educator, facilitator or social worker.

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Qualifications required to become a zootherapist

Empathy

Above all, zootherapy is a profession of contact with an often weakened public and animals. The professional must therefore demonstrate listening skills, patience, sensitivity, empathy and a keen sense of communication.

Creativity

Creativity is an important asset in order to offer new innovative and effective intervention approaches.

Observation capacity

Thanks to his observation capacity, he can detect and interpret the different interactions between humans and animals while understanding the problems encountered.

Rigor

Often working in a multidisciplinary team, he must know how to be rigorous and responsible to implement the appropriate safety and ethics rules.

Training to become a zootherapist

In France, since November 2012, the EAPAC (Ethology Applied to Pets) has been accredited by the State to award the diploma of Behavioralist-Mediator for Pets.

Currently, the title of zootherapist is neither recognized nor protected by law. But to properly exercise this profession, it is better to be professionally trained and have serious knowledge of the pathologies of the people with whom he will work.

It is therefore preferable to have studied in the field of psychological sciences or in the medical field before starting a zootherapist training which is considered a specialization.

What is the salary of a zootherapist?

Pet therapy is above all a passionate profession that requires a lot of self-giving and time but which pays little (the fees are most often between 25 and 50 dolars per session). Most zootherapists therefore practice another activity in parallel.

Where does the zootherapist work?

The zootherapist generally intervenes in the immediate environment of the beneficiary: hospital, rest home, retirement home, detention centers, social rehabilitation centers, ordinary or specialized educational establishments, etc.

One of the great strengths of this job is the absence of routine because each client has a different need, and will therefore require a personalized session.

Trends in the profession

Therapies with animals are on the rise. A phenomenon linked to our growing interest in our animal friends and our current desire to return to nature.

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