Animal Assisted Therapy is the use of trained and certified animals (in our case, a therapy dog) to improve engagement in therapy, decrease stress responses, improve willingness to attend therapy, strengthen skills in communication, empathy and confidence. Animal Assisted Therapy in Counselling, Play Therapy, Art Therapy, Lego Therapy and Social and Emotional Wellbeing groups assist the clients in building rapport, a greater sense safety, developing the relationship and modelling skills in emotional regulation, communication, patience, impulse control and confidence in trying new activities through trick training with the dog.
Our therapy dog, Hazel, has been trained to respond to gentle voice tones and as such models to children, teens and adults, that how we communicate with others has an impact on the response we receive.
Hazel sits along side children, modelling calm, mindful breathing, engages in games and trick training, provides proprioceptive feedback for those with sensory needs- often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and anxiety based conditions.
Hazel also plays piano.
She may not be as innately skilled in music as our Music therapist, she is always willing to keep trying and practising, modelling to children that persistence is important in growth.
For children and families who have experienced Family Violence, Domestic Violence, Bullying, Physical, Emotional or Sexual Abuse and other traumatic experiences at the hands of another, Animal Assisted Therapy can be a catalyst to establishing safety early in the therapeutic relationship, allowing the client to form a trusting bond with the therapy dog and the therapist.
Connecting with our certified therapy animals assists to regulate mood and emotions, practice social skills and language through training, and also establish a sense of mastery through trick training.
School groups or school visits are a great way to motivate students in learning, developing friendships, and discussing difficult events for children. Hazel, Along side Elisha, has supported many children in times of transitions, grief, loss, community trauma and in teaching vital skills in resilience, emotional regulation and healthy relationships.
Hazel is used as a learning tool and often referred back to when emotional regulation and literacy are being taught. This can help younger people make connections with their own experiences and feelings.
An example of introducing this concept for children may look like this: "Hazel sometimes gets quite nervous when she needs to go to the vet, I can see her body crouch closer to the ground. Almost like she is trying to make herself smaller and hide. I can reassure her by breathing and keeping my own body calm. Other ways I can help her feel safe and remain calm are to pat her and using a calm voice to reassure her. what are some strategies some of you put in place to help you feel ok when something anxiety provoking happens?"
Our dogs are certified Therapy or Facility dogs. The handlers (the therapist who own the dogs) have undergone extensive training and upgrade their certification in accordance with their training agency, K9 Support, keeping regular supervision and training maintenance.
Our dogs hold their own public liability insurance to enable working in schools, organisations, public areas as well as our clinic.
Hazel is a non shedding Tamruke, with a hypoallergenic coat. If you or a family member have a dislike, fear or allergy, we will ensure she is not present at your attendance.