Psychologist Naomi Adams is trained in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and works with her ‘furry co-therapist’ Molly at Bellarine Peninsula Psychology. Molly is Naomi’s border collie companion animal (‘pet’) and a trained and certified Therapy Dog.
In Naomi’s room, it is not uncommon for her clients to choose to sit on the floor with Molly, and Naomi will join them too. Engaging with therapy dogs during sessions can assist clients (especially younger people) to feel at ease and build rapport more quickly with their therapist, reduce stress in the counselling setting and distract from any discomfort that may be experienced when sitting more ‘formally’ in a therapy room.
Many people enjoy interacting with Molly, but it’s not just about cuddles and fun! Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is goal directed approach where animals are an important part of therapy, facilitated by a mental health professional.
The clients you see in photos from their sessions with Molly are working on therapy goals! The process of bonding with dogs (touching, patting, giving and receiving affection) can reduce stress chemicals, facilitate mindfulness practice (dogs are so ‘in the moment’ and when we are connecting with them, we are too!) reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, and help regulate emotions, especially when clients are talking about difficult life events and emotions.
Sometimes Naomi’s clients choose a ‘walk and talk’ session, where we walk Molly and sometimes stop at a park or oval to throw a tennis ball for her (even though she's an older dog, Molly still LOVES chasing a ball!) or practice some dog training. Even these activities are linked to client goals – such as exercise, social interaction, improving self-confidence, communication skills, and emotional regulation (for example managing frustration with dog training!)
Please feel free to contact us to find out more about how we provide Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities at Bellarine Peninsula Psychology!