Authors: Daniel Angus, Charlotte Wilson, Patrick McKinnon
Event: 2016 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Supporting Young People, innovation, quality, lived experience, service delivery, implementation, Headspace Penrith
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Human interaction with animals, the presence of animals and/or pet ownership has been shown to have a positive impact on physical health, such as lowering the heart rate and blood pressure or buffering against minor ailments (such as headaches). There is also evidence that human interaction with animals can have a positive impact on mental health, with research demonstrating the anxiety-reducing effects of animal petting as well as the presence of dogs in alleviating distress in children. Such evidence underlies the utilisation of animals in a therapeutic setting.
Therapists often find it difficult to engage with adolescents. Explanations for this include the stigma of therapy, beliefs that therapy cannot help or beliefs that the problem is too personal to tell anyone. As such, alternative, authentic, and 'non-mainstream' therapeutic methods to better engage young people in therapy are warranted.
Headspace Penrith have developed an innovative program which aims to develop a narrative informed therapy utilising a variety of animals, such as dogs and parrots. Young People registered in this program have learned how to support animals with mental illness and in turn learn about themselves by reflecting on their experience as an animal helper. Outcomes included improved self-efficacy, autonomy and social competence.