Saturday, April 8, 2017

Therapy Dogs: The Power of Animals

I recently got my dog licensed as a therapy dog and it has been a very exciting new journey for the both of us. Even though it has only been a few short months, I have already been able to experience the true power that animals (specifically dogs) can have on people. Working with children and adolescents who struggle with a wide range of issues each day has given me the opportunity to utilize animal assisted therapy with my own dog.

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient's social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.

Sometimes just the sight of a dog can lift someone’s mood. Recent studies have shown that a correlation was acknowledged between the human /dog bond and the emotional health of humans.

Studies have shown that a person holding or petting an animal will cause a lowering of blood pressure, the release of strain and tension, and can draw out a person from loneliness and depression. 

Other emotional disorders that can greatly benefit from therapy dogs include: 
  • PTSD, 
  • ADHD, 
  • Autism, 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
Working with grief / loss and improving communication skills are also added benefits.

In my own experience, my dog serves just a few simple purposes. He doesn’t have to jump through hoops or weave in and out of cones. He simply has to be present and ready to give and receive love from others. It is the magic of conducting therapy with dogs. Their simple presence can calm someone, give comfort and even a sense of peace. 

It can allow a child (or any client) to express emotions through the dog, increase endorphins and provide a feeling of unconditional love. 

It has truly been an eye-opening experience for me already. The amount of smiles that my dog brings to people’s faces on a daily basis is priceless and I look forward to the many more opportunities that come our way as we continue this journey together.

Shawna Paplaski, LCPC