Authors: Daniel Angus, Charlotte Wilson, Patrick McKinnon NSW
Event: 2016 TheMHS Conference
Subject: headspace Penrith, Different Species, Shared Stories, book of proceedings 2016, conference papers, proceedings papers
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Paper from TheMHS Conference 2016 Book of Proceedings: People. Authenticity Starts in the Heart. The Conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand 23 - 26 August 2016.
There is 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. As therapists often find it difficult to engage with adolescents, there is a need for alternative, authentic, and 'non-mainstream' therapeutic methods to better engage young people in therapy. 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 were taught how to support animals with mental illness in order to learn about themselves by reflecting on their experience as an animal helper. Program outcomes included the development of friendships among participants and reduced mental health symptoms.