Animal-Assisted Therapy & Recovery
Behavioral Health & Addiction
Freedom, Recovery & Empowerment with Dogs
* For adolescents ages 12-17; adults ages 18+; & families *
Please contact us for pricing & scheduling options *
When struggling to heal through addiction, and/or co-occurring disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety, the unyielding love of an animal can make a significant difference in how a person fares.
Whether your patients, clients, students or inmates are participating in hands-on exercises with our therapy animals in person, observing applicable animal behavior demonstrations on Zoom, or applying what they've learned by practicing it with their own pets, the F.R.E.D. program has something special to offer everyone who participates. When paired with guidance from a skilled professional interventionist, animals in the role of "adjunct therapist" have a powerful role to play in clients' recovery in the following ways:
"Being here with the dogs...helped my broken heart heal. For me, the group has been very therapeutic."
- They enhance an integrative healthcare plan with the kind of holistic, complementary healing that only animals can provide (including clients' own pets, whom they'll learn, effectively, how to utilize as working therapy animals at home)
- They give tangible form to the otherwise abstract emotional and psychological processes involved in recovery work
- They allow clients to practice safe coping skills in real time
- Their use in specially-designed exercises pairs the evidence-based restorative effects of animal-assisted therapy, and the proven efficacy of the curriculums we utilize, for exponentially robust treatment outcomes
- Animals help clients cultivate and maintain a positive association with the material they're learning about, and with the therapeutic process itself
- Their loving, nonjudgmental energy reminds clients that they are valuable for exactly who they are, no matter where they are in the recovery process; and that they are not alone.
We offer F.R.E.D. as an 8 or 16-week course; or as standalone, 1.5 hour-long sessions by request. We're happy to co-facilitate with a member of your staff who's already running a Seeking Safety group; or to implement it as a new program for your clients. We're also happy to adapt what we do to complement different types of treatment materials or curriculums you prefer to use at your facility. While holding a clinical license is not a requirement for Seeking Safety facilitators, we're happy to coordinate with licensed members of your staff in facilitating our groups (when working in a mental health setting), if this is your preference, and in case clients require one-on-one attention outside of the group for further processing. Contact us for scheduling and pricing options.
F.R.E.D. (or Seeking Safety + Dogs) encompasses the following treatment themes:
* PTSD: Taking Back Your Power
* Integrating the Split Self
* Asking for Help
* Detaching from Emotional Pain (Grounding)
* Red & Green Flags
* Coping with Triggers
* Setting Boundaries in Relationships
* Healing from Anger
* Creating Meaning
* Taking Good Care of Yourself
About Seeking Safety
Seeking Safety is an evidence-based, present-focused counseling model that helps people attain safety from trauma and/or substance abuse, + other forms of compulsory or self-harming behavior.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MODEL HERE: https://www.treatment-innovations.org/ss-description.html
"The dogs help me with my recovery by being themselves. They help release my tension because I focus on them instead."
"I've learned that therapy dogs are very helpful with regard to depression, how to cope, and getting motivated."
"I like the example of the cat, and thinking of how the cat lives in the here and now, and isn't thinking about how she was abandoned or how she lost her leg."
"I've learned that dogs can be a big influence on people's mental health. Instead of turning to a substance, you can turn to a dog."
Coping & Social Emotional Skill-Building for Kids & Teens
In this program, youth learn safe coping skills via training exercises with, and discussions about, dogs. For individuals or groups, each session contains a check-in, goal setting up front, a theme of the day, a dog demonstration, a hands-on, interactive exercise through which kids practice the coping skill they've just been learning about; and a check-out. Some examples of coping skills we explore include:
- The Worry Box, where kids help teach dogs to put items (which we label as different "worries") into a box as a way of containing them or setting them aside for another time
- Bubble Breathing, where we practice box breathing while slowly blowing bubbles for the dogs to chase and pop
- Mindfulness & Grounding , where we observe the dogs as grounding "objects"; learn from dogs' ability to stay present in the moment; and also listen as the dogs eat differently textured foods, brush the dogs, etc.
Physical & Occupational Therapy
Our calmest, gentlest, most patient therapy dogs are available to help individuals heal from physical or neurological injury or illness; and to assist those who struggle with developmental issues that affect mobility or motor function. By offering loving, nonjudgmental company during rehabilitation exercises, our dogs can inject a unique dose of fun, motivation, reward, positive distraction, and confidence-building into activities that may otherwise be tedious, frustrating or painful.
Gross Motor Skills Practice:
- kicking a ball back and forth with a dog
- kicking a ball for a dog to chase
- Walking next to a dog - or toward a waiting dog with a wagging tail – toward a goal post
- Sitting and standing, alternately, while asking the dog to do the same (in context of the Do As I Do training method, whereby a dog mimics a person’s behavior)
- Doing jumping jacks while asking the dog to stay lying down on a PLACE marker (i.e. acting as a distraction to proof the dog’s “place” behavior)
- Lifting dog toys of different weights, shapes and sizes; throwing them for the dog or playing tug with the dog
- Stretching and bending exercises – leaning down to pet the dog from different positions
- DANCING with DOGS!
Fine Motor Skills Practice
- Counting out training treats
- Loading training treats into a gallon jug or a treat ball to give to the dog
- Putting the dog’s harness or collar and leash on
- Holding a brush and brushing a dog
- Setting up cones with treats underneath for dog to find
- Using a clicker to reinforce dog’s responses to commands
PAWsitive Life Skills
Our animal-assisted intervention programs for youth are geared toward children and teens on the autism spectrum; and also youth struggling with anxiety, depression, and/or grief or trauma. We are happy to work with individual clients and their therapists or counselors in one-on-one settings to reach specific therapeutic goals; or with small groups of individuals at once.
ABA + Positive Reinforcement Dog Training =
Uncanny Opportunities for Parallel Processing
During our visits, youth will be guided to interact with therapy dogs utilizing training principles and techniques that mirror the five fundamental competencies of ABA therapy. Children are able to effectively utilize the dogs as proxies by which to learn valuable ways of thinking, learning, doing and being that apply to countless scenarios in their own real, daily lives. Furthermore, youth gain the inevitable therapeutic benefit of having loving, nonjudgmental animals present, petting them for the release of oxytocin and dopamine, and the confidence boost that comes from having animals listen, respect, and respond to them. Most importantly, this work is FUN and enjoyable, so students hardly even realize they're learning!
Students in this program practice the following ways in which to train dogs using (both ABA principles and) science-based, positive reinforcement principles and techniques:
- BACKCHAINING, as in teaching a dog to retrieve a dumbbell and bring it back to us, by first teaching the dog to hold the item in his mouth
- TASK ANALYSIS, (or what we refer to as "bit by bit"), in teaching a dog a complex task, such as putting an item into, and/or taking it out of, a basket
- PROMPTING (or what we refer to as "cueing"), to guide a dog in the right direction. We may use a food lure, a pointing finger, eye contact, vocal cues, changes in tone of voice, etc., to help a dog complete the task he is being asked to perform
- FADING, which means backing off the level of assistance given by the aforementioned cues, so as to allow the dog to fill in the gaps and become more proficient at a task with less and less external guidance over time
- SHAPING, during which we reinforce successive approximations of a behavior to motivate the dog to continue working at it