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‘Dogs are just so good at listening’ – Supporting children with Animal Assisted Therapy

The Together 4 Kids (T4K) program recently welcomed therapeutic worker Mel and her 4-legged co-worker Chloe, a trained and certified Therapy Dog, to the team.

Mel incorporates a technique called Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) to support therapeutic interventions with children who have experienced trauma. Since joining the team in January 2016, Chloe has had an incredible impact on the children she connects with, facilitating engagement; quickly establishing comfort and safety; and helping them to learn, heal and work towards their therapeutic goals.

Mel and Chloe are part of Purple Collar Animal Assisted Therapy and are working with the T4K team at Relationships Australia South Australia two days per week. Mel and Chloe support a case load of clients, and also consult with other T4K workers on their cases where AAT is seen to be beneficial.

How are dogs used in the Together 4 Kids service?

The dog’s presence in a therapeutic setting can have a calming effect on children, acting as an ‘ice-breaker’ that is both comforting and increases engagement. Children have said that they find it easier to talk to dogs or with a dog present, and much social and emotional learning can occur through a relationship with the dog. The dog can also be actively involved in the therapy, either physically through interactive activities or hypothetically in conversational exercises. Therapy dogs are specifically trained to interact safely with children in guided therapeutic work.

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