I am a therapist to families, adults and children, although I specialize in adolescent issues. Through my many years of experience as a therapist I have witnessed a myriad of social, physical and emotional benefits brought about by humans interacting with animals.
I have always had a deep love and respect for animals. Aside from warming the hearts of many and putting a smile on your face during the gloomiest of days, they provide a safe environment for people to work on a variety of therapeutic issues. They are companions who love their owners unconditionally, have a non-judgmental presence and offer continual support just by being by their side.
ANIMALS CAN SERVE AS A TYPE OF THERAPIST
Animals offer a sense of security for my clients that many people in their lives do not or are unable to give them. If my clients can’t quite articulate how they are feeling, I encourage them to bring their pet into my office for support and to be their voice. I ask my client if their pet could speak, what would he or she say about them or the triggering event. Dogs have always been used for varying types of service. People who are suffering from mental illness hugely benefit from having a dog, whether it’s a pet or a Mental Health Service dog.
Clients who have experienced Post Traumatic Stress feel a great sense of security by having a Mental Health Service dog to help them to feel confident enough to leave his or her home, extinguishing flashbacks by bringing their owner back to the present time. These dogs can assist with OCD by interrupting the repetitive behaviors, which redirects the client. If a client is having an anxiety attack, Mental Health Service dogs will cuddle up next to their owner as a way to orient them. Mental Health Service dogs can help someone suffering from schizophrenia to discern reality versus their delusions and/or hallucinations.
For people suffering from mood disorders, animals provide a sense of purpose and help to minimize feelings of isolation. The client who might not otherwise have structure for himself or herself will be forced into a daily schedule and exercise because of his canine companion, including social interactions during walks or hikes.
HORSES CAN SOOTHE EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL & PHYSICAL TURMOIL
Horses are also a wonderful resource for my clients. Instead of the horse coming to my office to be a part of our session, I will work with my client and an Equine Therapist at the ranch. Horses, like dogs provide a non-judgmental presence and have clear boundaries. Clients learn a lot about themselves and how their behavior affects others.
I am a huge proponent of Equine therapy and when indicated I suggest that my clients work with an Equine therapist as an adjunct to the work we are doing. It is truly remarkable how the horse mirrors the client. Horses follow the non-verbal cues of the client who is being seen by the horse in his or her true authentic state. If my client’s words are not congruent with their actions, the horse will follow their non-verbal cues over their commands, as horses are very sensitive to their environment. Horses present authentically and are direct with their responses, as opposed to people who are always changing their behavior and can verbally communicate in a confusing and complicated way. If my client is a controlling person and he or she tries to control the horse, the horse will not concede. This teaches my client that controlling and bullying behaviors are not received in a positive way, which then encourages my client to revaluate his or her behavior.
Equine therapy is excellent for my clients suffering from Substance Use Disorders, Eating Disorders, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and ADHD. It really benefits my clients who tend to be apprehensive about deep emotional work causing them to intellectualize as a defense mechanism. Through various exercises the horse essentially pulls the raw emotion out of my client helping them to begin to feel their anger, sadness, fear, resentment, guilt, despair, regret, loneliness and even happiness.
To read more about Joelle Jacobson or information regarding her Online Teen Therapy sessions, please visit: www.teentalkline.org