What's New at Hands


Animal-Assisted Therapy Now Helping Children in Parry Sound

Posted on: February 27th, 2017

A new four-legged therapist has joined the Child and Youth Mental Health team at Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca. Jaguar, or “Jag”, is a Labrador Retriever who has been visiting Hands’ Parry Sound office as part of a six-month pilot project providing children, youth and families with an alternative method of therapy. animal assisted therapy photo

Animal-Assisted Therapy is an emerging field in mental health treatment. Research shows that animals, working in collaboration with a therapist, can help create a space of trust and safety during therapy. Dogs used in therapy can help calm fears and anxiety, improve self-esteem and lift the moods of those around them.

“At Hands, we have seen significant changes in engagement with our clients,” says Heather Kent, Child and Family Therapist at Hands. “Children and youth who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or trauma may have a hard time talking about how they feel. When Jag is in the room, clients find it easier to talk to me (or sometimes to him) about the difficulties they are facing in their lives, and generally feel more relaxed in the office environment.”

Jaguar’s ability to connect with children and provide comfort and a sense of calm originates from his extensive background working with young children. He has spent many years working with children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other vulnerable populations.

Animal-Assisted Therapy is available to children and youth with specific needs in the Parry Sound community, who are receiving Child and Youth Mental Health support at Hands. Families who have concerns about their child’s mental health are asked to call Hands and request an Intake, which is the first step to accessing services. Once engaged with Child and Youth Mental Health services, the Child and Family Therapist working with the family will determine if Animal-Assisted Therapy is a good fit. If so, the client or family may be asked if they would consider allowing Jag to join their therapy session as a beneficial addition to counselling services.

Since Jaguar started working with Heather at Hands in November 2016, he has brought comfort and support to the work environment. Additionally, Hands staff have witnessed increased engagement during therapy sessions and more clients have been attending their scheduled appointments.

For more information on child and youth mental health services at Hands, please visit www.TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca or call 705-746-4293, toll free 1-800-668-8555.

PrintFriendly and PDFPrint / imprimer