“Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural. They show us what’s missing in our lives, and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally. They connect us back to who we are, and to the purpose of why we’re here.” ― Trisha McCagh
We are so excited for you to have the opportunity to experience a therapy dog on your treatment team! If you are working with Melanie, her intern or Leah, they will be in many sessions for what is technically called Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP). One of the biggest benefits to having a therapy animal in the room is a decrease in anxiety and a lifted mood! Riley is very laid back and very intuitive to client’s emotions. She loves to greet you with a wagging tail and sit with you for all the back rubs and head scratches you want to give! True to her German Shepherd breed, she knows it’s her job and loves it! Also staying true to her “Golden” nature, Darcy is goofy and cuddly…ensuring a laugh and a smile before you leave! They are both just as happy to snooze at your feet! Camo is a sweet Bichon who is curious and loves to play and cuddle! Happy to follow the lead of whomever he’s with, a perfect playmate for all the kiddos in Ms Leah’s office! If you have allergies or prefer for a therapy dog to not be in a session with you, please be sure and discuss this with your therapist before your session. Riley and Melanie are both trained and certified through Pet Partners National Organization and are also part of the local non-profit, Music City Pet Partners, that also helps other teams become certified and get involved in the therapy dog community. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of working with a therapy animal and what it’s like to have Riley on your treatment team!
WHAT IS ANIMAL ASSISTED PSYCHOTHERAPY (AAP)?
AAP differs from the more commonly understood animal assisted therapy (AAT) in which volunteer handlers and animals visit facilities such as schools, hospitals or nursing homes. AAT programs are powerful for both the participants and the volunteers, but AAP’s focus on mental health, the depth and complexities of the therapy and the training of clinicians make it unique. Melanie and her therapy dogs do both; While Leah & Camo are in the training process!
WHY DO YOU USE AN ANIMAL IN THERAPY?
Animals are empathic, nonjudgmental, affectionate and give unconditional positive regard, which enables the client to feel welcome, accepted and comforted in sessions. This atmosphere of emotional safety facilitates the development of a therapeutic bond, encourages rapport and can lead to increased disclosure and openness. Having animals in session is also motivating for clients to both engage in and return to therapy. Sessions with an animal can also be fun and energizing, which may be a welcome change for clients who have previously had unsuccessful therapeutic experiences. Animal assisted psychotherapy is unique in its ability to combine thinking, feeling and behaving within one intervention. Working with the animals is a hands-on, experiential exercise and clients no longer just talk about their issues but are engaged in activities that elicit honest behaviors and feelings, which can then be processed in the moment. Animal assisted interventions also present new challenges and opportunities that enable clients to see themselves in a different, positive light. Teaching a dog a new trick encourages problem solving, assertiveness, patience, communication and awareness and regulation of emotions and behaviors. Clients are presented with opportunities that gently push them out of their comfort zone and in return, they gain new skills, self-awareness, a sense of mastery and accomplishment and are able to work on their therapeutic goals in a whole new way.
WHAT IS A SESSION LIKE?
Animal assisted interventions may include simply cuddling or petting an animal; teaching them a new trick or skill; haltering and walking a dog, doing artwork of or with an animal; interacting with them during a yoga session; watching animals interact while discussing body language, non-verbal communication and many other creative activities. Throughout these interventions, we share their stories with client’s, which allows them to feel a sense of connection to the them. Riley & Darcy happen to both be a rescue animals with a history that causes them anxiety and issues they’ve had to overcome. This allows clients to connect with them due to similarities in struggles and adversities.
PLEASE NOTE: ADA LAW STATES THAT ONLY SERVICE ANIMALS ARE ALLOWS IN PUBLIC SPACES. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS OR THERAPY ANIMALS. OUR THERAPY ANIMALS ARE “INSURED” WHEN THEY ARE WORKING IN THE OFFICE. WE KINDLY REQUEST THAT YOU NOTIFY US 48 HOURS IN ADVANCE OF YOUR SESSION, IF YOU HAVE A SERVICE ANIMAL THAT WILL BE ASSISTING YOU TO YOUR SESSION.
SERVICE ANIMAL DEFINED: A dog and in some cases miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples include guide dogs for people who are blind, hearing dogs for people who are deaf, or dogs trained to provide mobility assistance or communicate medical alerts.