Animal-Assisted Therapy: Why and for whom
Animal-assisted therapy is psychotherapy that uses animals as a therapeutic means and is based on the beneficial qualities in the relationship between people and animals.
This therapy is intended for children and youth that suffer from emotional and behavioral disturbances, trauma and anxiety, attention-deficit disorders, learning disabilities, communication disorders, sensory processing disorders, mental retardation etc.
Clients' responses to therapy and their behavior and conversations with and about animals teach us much about their wishes and needs. The world of animals enables contact with a variety of charged emotional contents such as: sexuality, child-rearing, power struggles, illness, death etc.
For many clients it is easier to open themselves and to share troubles and difficulties related to these contents by observing animal behavior and in the presence of animals. This tool opens another channel of communication that is not necessarily verbal, through which the client can express himself. Dealing with animals allows for a variety of experiences through which we can simultaneously observe and study aspects of the client's personality, behavioral patterns, previous experiences, internalized representations, reconstructed relationships that are projected on the animals etc.
The advantages of this therapy are in its' suitability to clients who, for various reasons, have limited inter-personal relations but who are in need of relationship-transfer and immediate emotional and expressive feedback. All of this is made possible through the relationship with the animals, who supply unconditional love and affection, and who accept the "other" as is without criticizing him or judging his behavior and traits. This atmosphere allows the client to feel less threatened by criticism and to be less fearful of failure or not meting the requirements of his surroundings. Animal-assisted therapy requires care and relating to physical needs such as food, cleanliness, grooming, training etc. This awakens and ignites both the desire to act and the motivation that ultimately lead the client to improved function, as activity and doing are a powerful healing factor for depression, confusion, failure and low self esteem.
Therapy takes place in the petting-farm area that includes a closed therapy room and an open farm. The therapy room has a wide variety of animals such as: rabbits, Guinea pigs, hamsters, parrots, polecats, chinchillas etc. These animals are all friendly and used to human contact. The room is equipped with play and art equipment that enable a different and creative combination of play-therapy and animal-assisted therapy. There is also a possibility for outdoors work with farm-animals and fowl.
Acceptance procedure to therapy
Before therapy begins, the therapist meets with the parents. At this meeting we request information regarding the reason for referral and any relevant information regarding medical, behavioral, emotional and family background. We design together the most appropriate therapy-program for you and your child.
We recommend bringing to this meeting any previous therapy reports, medical permission forms and a "Kupat Cholim hitchayvut" (letter of financial coverage) (for Maccabi members only).
Both parents are to be present at this meeting without the child.
The farm has options for individual or group therapy for children and adolescents as well as advice and counseling for parents and dyadic therapy (parent-child therapy). Therapy sessions take place once a week for 50 minutes per session.
The therapeutic staff is professional and trained in the field of therapy and education and is certified for animal-assisted therapy.
We believe in systematic work through continuous communication with the educational and therapeutic factors related to the child and his family. When necessary we assist in designing behavioral and therapeutic programs accompanied and supervised by educational staffs in the children's educational frameworks.