This blog was written by our resident, Bunny Sumner Young, M.A., QMHP. Contact us today about meeting with her and her therapy dog.
Fine noted that the mere presence of an animal has been found to lower anxiety and increase participation in therapy (2000).
Whether in traditional clinical therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy, dogs can add so many benefits for clients.
Therapists observe that having difficult conversations with clients is often a lot easier when the conversation is had in the presence of a dog. For example, a stroke client who is struggling to find motivation to learn how to brush their teeth, comb their hair, or dress themselves again can find comfort in grooming a dog and caring for the dog which allows the therapist to apply those skills and that care back to the importance of practicing self care and personal care in one’s life.
The bond between therapist and their dog as a co therapist can be an incredible model for the client on what healthy communication and relationships should look like. The trust between a therapist and a dog, as well as the bond that is clearly visible to the client, is a constant reminder of how important support and connections are and what a healthy version of that looks like. Clients can also begin to form their own healthy bonds and relationships with the dog and experience what that feels like in a safe environment without the sometimes intimidating factors that come with a human connection. The relationship has immediate feedback as well. If the client is behaving in a manner unacceptable to the dog, the dog will remove themselves from the client and area until the behavior is discontinued. Conversely when the client is doing something that the dog enjoys and perceives as beneficial, then the dog will want to be closer to the client and continue that interaction. It is genuine feedback on relationships without the burden of dishonesty or manipulation.
A connection with a dog is unconditional, loyal, and comes with no conditions other than consistency and kindness (and maybe a biscuit or two). Their salary is also extremely competitive when compared to hiring another therapist to co-facilitate your sessions. More and more professionals are seeing the many benefits of working with a dog as your therapeutic partner. And more and more clients are seeing the incredible benefits of working with a human-canine therapy team.
If you’re interested in introducing a dog into your therapy routine, please contact us today to schedule your next appointment.