Therapy alone can be daunting. Add a pet into the equation, though, and things get much better.
Reacting to the unique idiosyncrasies of a dog, cat or little furry friend naturally gives kids emotional and mental therapeutic benefits, says Dr. Vanessa von Auer, Clinical Psychologist at VA Psychology Centre. Find out more below!
Firstly, pet-assisted therapy can help ease an anxious or fearful child into a therapy session. The animal serves as a conversation starter rather than the therapist jumping right into personal or family problems, which will usually restrict or intimidate a child. Additionally, children experiencing shyness, anxiety and anger can benefit tremendously from spending time with a pet.
Therapy animals such as dogs have built-in skills that allow them to pick up on a child’s feelings and respond with empathy, patience and calm. During therapy sessions, therapists can take these cues and use them to demonstrate to your child how he or she comes across to others or how he or she can change his or her own behaviour to affect others positively. Since animals tend to react within the moment, your child also learns to correct his or her own behaviour immediately when interacting with a furry friend who will easily forgive and forget.
Children who have experienced animal therapy also tend to become more confident and at peace with themselves. They’ve also shown more flexibility and less anxiety towards change or unfamiliar scenarios. the physiological benefits of spending time with an animal include: a decrease in “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and an increase in “happy” hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. Finally, pets are cuddly, fun and love humans unconditionally – core values each child and adult can appreciate.
From The Finder (Issue 285), July 2017
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