Phoenix is soon to be an official therapy dog! I finished my Animal Assisted Therapy program and now just need to have her heal from her recent spay surgery so that she can pass her “good citizen test” and get her vest to make her look all sorts of professional!
Dogs (and other animals) can be a huge perk in the therapy setting. Aside from helping us to regulate our nervous systems they can provide a third object in the room to talk about (much like art can). To be able to guess at how the dog is feeling in relationship to us, or in different scenarios, allows the client to not be the obvious object of attention. A therapy dog can also be a great empathy model. They have the power to show a client unconditional love! Many people do not have the opportunity to experience such a feeling in their day to day lives. Some clients may have difficulty knowing when they are being”too much” or “too little” in our society (whether that is middle school, kindergarten, or in the office). If the dog is too exuberant, she could scare people – which is a great metaphor for some people at work or at school; they can simply be too much (too in your fact, too loud, too bouncy, too high energy) and it can be off-putting for those around them who are not feeling that way. If the dog is too mellow and ignoring everyone, it might feel to the client like the dog doesn’t like them. This is another good example of real/human life; if a student at school ignores their friends, the friends are probably going to take it personally. So, the mere presence of the dog in the therapy room can evoke a great deal of conversation and compassion for ourselves, and others who we may be in relationship with (or want to be in relationship with). Making friends can be hard for some kids and many adults. Practicing relationships with animals is a brilliant form of therapy.
If you want to be sure Phoenix is a part of your session, let me know. If she is having a sick day, or too long of a work day, I will give her time-off. She is a dog, after all, and only gets paid in food. Oh, and TONS of kisses.
Here’s a fun link to an interview with the woman who taught the Animal Assisted Therapy class, Amanda Ingram: http://www.9news.com/life/dog-makes-difference-in-second-career-at-denver-health/249709909