Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues can affect any family, at any time. Buts stigmas around these issues can prevent parents from reaching out for help, for fear that they or their child will be judged.

Fortunately, there’s hope. People are breaking down barriers and talking more openly about mental illness and mental health issues. And with increased awareness and visibility comes greater access to resources for parents who struggle with these challenges.

These videos offer parental support and information on topics such as depression, self-harm, and how to obtain the help your child needs.

How Can Animal Assisted Therapy Help My Child Who Finds Counseling Very Stressful?

Elizabeth Duke, Psy.D., TRI, ESMHL, Registered Therapy Animal Handler
Post Doctoral Resident
Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center
630.357.2456 ext. 112
eduke@samaritancenter.org

Most often you hear about Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT, associated with dogs visiting people in hospitals, or doing Reading with Rover programs. These are incredibly beneficial services today about animals in AAT in counseling has two basic requirements, a mental health professional and a certified therapy animal.

AAT can be a non traditional way help kids and teens get the benefits of therapy by lowering the anxiety and stress around coming to “therapy” or “counseling.” First and foremost, research has shown that petting a dog increases happy bonding hormones in both dogs and humans! So when there’s a dog in the room, your child is likely to become more relaxed just by sitting down and petting the dog. You can imagine how helpful this can be when a kid has to talk about something that really makes them nervous – just pet the dog and you have an automatic stress reducer; that way we can talk about the difficult things sooner and with more honesty. Often having a dog or horse present is a great way to break the ice, for kids that are on the shy side, talking about the dog is a great way to start building a trusting relationship.

Maybe your teen has some negative ideas of what it means to go to therapy? AAT can provide the opportunity to move therapy outdoors and into nature; Some kids and teens might find taking a therapy dog on a walk (which by the way can give therapists tons of information to work with) or heading out to the barn to work with a horse in the arena much less intimidating than going to the office for traditional therapy.

My favorite part of AAT is how it provides the opportunity to practice what we talk about. Relationships with animals are transparent and feedback from animals rarely offends us; with the help of a skilled therapist animal-human interactions can be used to promote healing and growth in your child.

DISCLAIMER:
Conversations with experts are intended for general information only, and are not meant to provide specific advice, diagnosis, and does not constitute professional care. If this is an emergency, please dial 911 immediately.