My good friend and colleague, Terry Wilke, incorporates a beautiful brown bunny named Cocoa into her work with children to help them better understand their feelings and cope with stressful situations. This is from her recent newsletter.
“Why Cocoa is Good for You
Many of you know that Terry Wilke, LCSW has a pet bunny Cocoa who can come to the office and help with psychotherapy sessions. Perhaps you have a pet of your own that you enjoy petting and playing with. But did you know that pets can actually be therapeutic?
Research has shown the following:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets
- Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets
We all have a basic human need for touch. Petting, holding, and cuddling your pet can meet that need. In addition, pets can provide unconditional love, companionship, and playfulness.
Benefits of Pets for Children
A pet can provide some specific benefits for your child:
- Teaches responsibility
- Teaches compassion and empathy
- Source for calming/relaxing
- Stimulates learning
- Stimulates the child’s imagination and curiosity
The Use of Pets in Psychotherapy
With permission, and consideration of the fit for the client, incorporating a pet into the psychotherapy session can be very helpful. Clients may find it soothing to pet a furry friend when discussing something painful, stressful or traumatic. Animals are also very good examples of being mindful and living in the moment which is often a therapy goal.
For children, interacting with the pet can be a way to practice social skills, slowing down, gentleness, and consideration. Also, the pet offers an opportunity to discuss many of the child’s challenges through the metaphor of similar challenges the pet faces. The child may talk to the pet or draw pictures for the pet because they feel safe telling the pet their inner conflicts and feelings.
If you think you or your child would benefit from interacting with Cocoa in a therapy session, please discuss this with Terry Wilke, LCSW.
Data obtained from www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm”
For more information about Terry Wilke, LCSW, you can visit her website at http://terrywilke.com/
On a related note, you might like to listen to this report from NPR’s Health Blog, Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/05/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other