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Animal Assisted Therapy and TeleMental Health

Dr. Christina Strayer, Ed.D, LPCS, AAT, CCTP, DCC, RYT-200, provides education, consultation, counseling services, and telehealth services. She is an owner of Animal Assisted Therapy of the Triangle in Clayton, North Carolina as well as the lead instructor for the Animal Assisted Therapy Interventionist (AAT-I) credentialing program. In partnership with Telehealth Certification Institute, Dr. Strayer teaches two levels of the AAT-I credential: AAT-I Level 1 can be completed as an online self-study and includes required reading and assignments. AAT-I Level 2 includes a three day on-site intensive training in Clayton, NC in addition to the Level 1 requirements.

In July 2020, Dr. Strayer spent some time with Ray Barrett of Telehealth Certification Institute discussing mental healthcare with animal assistance, as well as the effect she has witnessed firsthand from requisite distance services from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are experiencing varying levels of trauma and anxiety during the pandemic. Some ways to cope include mindfulness, getting into nature, incorporating animals with therapy, and exercising. In short: find the methods that prove to be the most therapeutic for you.

Dr. Strayer is both shocked and surprised by how smoothly her clients have adjusted to the shift from in-person to remote counseling. The bond clients have with Dr. Strayer’s animals is still strong, and they are able to see how her dog, Cookie, exhibits his own self-care.  She finds that new clients are just as receptive to telemental health, but she is very careful to disclose and double check before incorporating any animals into therapy.

Benefits to telemental health care include the ability to stay in pajamas, no traveling (thereby reducing anxiety), grounding oneself by having comfort items. 

Dr. Christina Strayer declares that telemental health is accelerating the work of therapy rather than proving to be an obstacle.  You can find out more about Dr. Strayer on the website for Animal Assisted Therapy of the Triangle, and click here for details of the Animal Assisted Therapy Interventionist Credential.

If you'd like to learn more from Dr. Strayer and earn 1 CE credit (approved by NBCC, ASWB and NAADAC), please visit the recorded version of a session Dr. Strayer led at the Telemental Health Preparedness Summit 2020: "Thinking Outside the Screen: Integrative Therapies in Telemental Health"

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