- The child who has never spoken a word and struggles to look his parents in the eye, transforms when he hugs the family dog;
- The teenager who storms out of the psychological assessment her parents spent a fortune on, is able to engage when her new ‘counsellor’ turns out to be a horse;
- And the middle age adult carrying the weight of years of trauma, convinced ‘nothing can help me’, softens as the kitten on her lap starts to purr.
What is it about animals that helps us feel safe, encourages us to express ourselves and somehow teaches us about relationships, life and ourselves; even – possibly especially – when nothing else seems to be working?
And it’s not just during time of challenge in life when the human animal bond pulls us close. Pet ownership in Canada is on the rise, with over 40% of Canadian households now including at least one dog, and close to 40% including at least one cat. Source: Canadian Animal Health Institute Horses are a little less accessible to the average person, however the most recent statistics in Canada (from 2010) showed close to a million horses and horse enthusiasts in our country despite a 70% increase in horse keeping costs over the prior seven years. Source: Canadian Equine Industry Profile Study Results
What draws us to being with animals?
This increase in wanting to connect with and learn from animals is also extending into many fields of human healing and wellness. At first consideration incorporating animals, particularly horses, into a wellness or therapy approach, may simply seem to complicate things, for both the service provider and the client. There are increased risks, additional training and certification requirements, potential for allergies, and a myriad of other considerations.
And yet the fields of equine and animal assisted therapy continue to grow in popularity, credibility, availability and public awareness.
How can animals help those we care about and work with?
Over a series of blog posts we will aim to shed light on all of these questions and more; hopefully gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of why and how interacting, developing relationships and simply being with animals – be it in our home, within a therapeutic environment or elsewhere – can benefit us in multiple ways.
This series will explore the following:
- What the research has to say about the human animal bond.
- How animals can provide people with the motivation to seek out help.
- Why many of us feel safer in the company of animals and how this can be drawn upon within a healing approach.
- How animals can help create three key conditions shown to be necessary and conducive for healing and growth to arise: genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard.
- Why both what we have in common with animals, and how we differ, allows us to turn to animals as role models, and to learn about ourselves from watching and interacting with them.
- What animals have to teach us about both play and rest.
- How incorporating animals in to a therapeutic environment can help us create the conditions of true play, and why this may be the greatest way to achieve emotional wellness, healing and growth.
- How animals can invite us to understand, feel and express our emotions in a healthier way.
I look forward to taking this journey with you!