Animal-assisted therapy is always available at Elle’s Garden. Psychodynamic theory underpins all our work - we are not a ‘therapy farm’ or ‘farm park’. Yet our animal therapy partners are an import part of the work we do. We have pigs, goats, miniature Shetland ponies, chickens and Guinea pigs, and of course, all of the wildlife we might encounter here. Engaging with the animals is an enjoyable, fun experience which can significantly enhance the counselling process -providing opportunities for discussion, insight and healing.
The animals can all be safely touched, fed, and handled (by 3 yr olds and above) with our therapists’ assistance. Working with and looking after the animals can be very soothing, increase wellbeing, help children develop a new skill, bolster confidence and self-esteem and help develop relationships. Simply being around, feeding and handling animals can help develop compassion and emotional skills - calmness and kindness naturally develop. Animals are responsive, in the here-and-now, and offer unconditional acceptance. Children can feed their sense of touch and exchange attention with a being that is regarding them in a different way. It is a relationship about contact and connection.
Studies have shown that being in nature and around animals can boost mood, reduce anxiety, and help people with their emotional and social skills. It can help calm neurological and sensory trauma and promote communication. For example, simply being around animals can significantly improve the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Engaging with pets such as Guinea Pigs has been proven to lower the stress hormone cortisol. They do an excellent job in increasing a person’s sense of safety and this can help speed up the counselling process.
Prior experience with animals?
Children do not need to have any prior experience with animals or feel they are ‘animal people’ to benefit. We find that most children engage and relate better when with animals. It can help them when establishing the important relationship with the counsellor, and they relate to the animals in a way which helps understand what might be going on for themselves. Some might even feel it is the first time they have a truly authentic relationship with another being.
Do I have to?
There is never any pressure to engage with the animals, or any of the offers here at Elle’s Garden. Some people come with the view that they are ‘not creative’ or ‘no good at art’, that ‘animals don’t like me’, or ‘play is for babies’. At Elle’s Garden, we are child led. Choice and the individual is key. We aim to help people suspend their judgement, boost their confidence, get involved, learn and grow.