Guest Author – Daniella San Martin-Feeney is the Program Coordinator for Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). Chimo AAT is a non-profit initiative based in Edmonton, Canada, which facilitates the implementation of AAT programs in health and social service facilities, as well as schools. Their focus is on mental health, and their mission is to facilitate the use of animals to help those in need.
Daniella’s second Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) case study shows how AAT can benefit the therapist-client relationship, and set the stage for optimal healing. It also takes place in an office.
Case Study 2
HOW BISHOP, A GOLDEN RETRIEVER HELPED
KAREN FEEL SAFE
In order for therapy to be successful, clients need to feel they are in a safe environment. The client must trust their therapist before they can talk openly about their personal thoughts and experiences. The importance of this point is demonstrated by a recent experience Terry Wilton had with a client. Terry’s client, who we will call Karen, is a victim of sexual abuse. Karen was very apprehensive about being alone in an office with a male psychologist. The following comments from Terry and Karen demonstrate how Bishop, Terry’s canine partner, helped Karen feel safe:
Karen – Having the dog here makes me feel more comfortable about being in a closed room with the therapist. I enjoy Bishop being in the room. It makes me feel a lot better, more safe. I feel like I can express myself more when Bishop is here. I like coming to these sessions, and Bishop makes it a lot easier for me to be here. The animals really help! I recommend that every therapy session be done with an animal.
Terry – Having Bishop present made the client feel very much safer and able to tolerate being in a closed room as a female with a male therapist. This is a MAJOR benefit! Bishop play[s] a very important role of both comfort and distraction…[Sometimes] when [Karen comes] to a session she [is] very distressed. Focusing on Bishop allow[s] us to move out of that distress so we [can] come back to the issues at a decreased level of emotional intensity. The client is more relaxed and able to work in therapy when she is sitting on the floor with Bishop beside her…[she] spends the entire session petting Bishop and having close physical contact with him while we talk. [Karen] is more able now to move forward and talk through the things she needs to. We are establishing a greater therapeutic alliance as therapy continues.
Taken From: Comment section from Client and Therapist Chimo Project Questionnaires (2002), as published in Improving Health Through Animal Assisted Therapy. L. Urickuk with Dennis Anderson. 2003.
Visit Daniella at Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy web page: www.chimoproject.ca.
Check our her blog at: http://chimoaat.wordpress.com