This past week I added a tool to my therapy belt and hopefully began a relationship with a friend and co-therapist that I will have for the next several years. Her name is Luna and she is a fluffy little white bundle of puppy joy! You may ask, “With all of the demands of grad school why would I possibly get a dog to add to the responsibility of it all”? That is a very good question, which on some days I still struggle to answer, but already I can tell that Luna has brightened the lives around her. I hope that with training she can add joy and wellness to my life and the lives of my future clients.
Animal Assisted therapy has been around for quite sometime in various forms but it is just beginning to become recognized as evidence based practice in therapy. Animals can lower blood pressure and provide a feeling of calm for clients, they can decrease loneliness, increase self-esteem, and help a client feel comfortable talking. A therapist can use an animal in session to facilitate emotional expression, encourage spontaneity and allow for contact and touch. I’ve found lots of great resources lately on Animal Assisted Therapy, so if it interests you check it out!
I’ve had the awesome experience of witnessing therapy dogs at my internship site. They greet the young people and families and start the visit off comfortably with unconditional love. It doesn’t matter to a dog what trouble you’ve gotten into with the law or if you have made a mistake in life. Having the dogs around makes the office feel more like home. Hopefully Luna will add to my growth as a therapist and remind me that no one is perfect, loving your pack members and taking naps are important, and sometimes it’s ok to just play in the leaves because you feel like it.