Animal-assisted Therapy - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-08-2011, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Animal-assisted Therapy


I was wondering if anyone out there works in animal-assisted therapy in the mental health field (rehab for prisoners, teenagers, or "therapy dog" that sits in on therapy sessions, etc).

I am a mental health therapist looking to train my puppy for this eventually and wanted to make some contacts and also find out about credentialing. My understanding is there is not any current credentialing required for these dogs in the US, but that going for the same certificates that "therapy dogs" require (i.e. dogs that visit hospitals, etc) is typically is smart move that may help with insurance.

I was also wondering what context you use your therapy dog in and if you use specific goals for the client's progress, if so, what are examples of the type of goals that you have in place?

Thanks for any help,

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-08-2011, 02:08 PM
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I am not a therapist w/ a therapy dog but I have a friend in western Ohio who works w/ kids involved w/ juvenile court and she is raising a poodle right now with the goal of her being a therapy dog. I thought the first step is a the Canine Good Citizen and there are certifications for therapy dogs so they can visit hospitals,schools etc..I ran a companion pet pdog program in an Ohio prison on a residential treatment unit.I sometimes took one of our calmer dogs w/ me in sessions for guys who had recieved segregatio/disciplinary time and were coping with mental illness. Just sitting and petting the dog seemed to help them handle the consequence they earned. My dog handlers learned more from I would check out your social work/counselor board or other mental health associations as they probably have members who have therapy dogs. I'll try to find you some links. I personally think its a great therapuetic intervention. I on the residential mental health unit ran a Pet therapy group for our lower functioning residients and used the group as a objective in increasing socialization. I found that young male inmates were able to talk about difficult issues when they could hug or pet a dog. I also took a dog along when I was doing follow up on a death notification. One of the professional organizations I belong to has pet therapy people at their national conferences,and many work w/ adolescents.I will PM you any links I find and see if I can find a contact for you.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-08-2011, 02:09 PM
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One of the (local) animal assisted therapy organizations I volunteer with has some programs in mental health facilities. I have not volunteered in those particular ones myself, only the ones that visit hospitals with physical/speech rehab but they use the same test no matter where you are volunteering. They also have programs in centers for chemical rehab, autistic children, etc... It is still a therapy dog whether they are doing physical therapy or other.

Here is their website, it might give you more info for this type of work. This link goes to a list of their programs:
Canine Therapy Corps - Our Programs

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-09-2011, 01:42 PM
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I have been doing Therapy work with my previous German Shepherd and with my current Malinois for the past couple of years. Among other things, we work with Soldiers who have PTSD/depression, which I suppose would fall under "mental health."

You are correct that there is no national or state requirement for Therapy Dogs to be certified in any way, but the majority of facilities we have been to would not let us visit unless we were covered under our own liability insurance in case something happened. (An exception here was the first old folks' home we went to, they only required that the dog have a CGC to prove the dog had basic obedience.)

You generally get such insurance by either testing and registering with a national organization, such as TDI, TDInc. or Delta, or by testing and belonging to a local organization that already visits certain facilities. Each of those organizations will have its own rules and standards. Some require that you perform supervised visits in existing places before being allowed to visit on your own. Some will not cover you and your dog under their insurance if you bring your dog to your (paid) work, only if you're working as a volunteer. And so on.

If you have never done any Therapy Dog work previously, it's best to get started with a local group to see how they handle their visits and what sort of things you may not have thought about otherwise. (For example, most people don't keep in mind that therapy work is actually very taxing on the dog and visits should be limited in duration accordingly so the dog doesn't "burn out".)

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