The Southern Nevada Activity Professionals Association (SNAPA) invited me to speak at their annual conference about the healing power of pets and the use of animals in activities and therapies in educational and therapeutic settings.
The gathering brought out professionals from across all of Nevada.
Health care professionals are being challenged more and more to create innovative and sustainable programs to deal with the myriad of situations they face.
As Activity Professionals they understand the importance of an active mind and body. They understand the connection between the two and how what they do has significant impact on a client’s well being. They need to stay fresh and creative and current with all the resources available to them, as their role is a critical one in the overall care plan for their clients.
Music, play, recreational or animal-assisted therapies all contribute to the well-being and comfort for their clients. But it is the animals that truly makes that critical connection and can lessen chronic pain, depression, anxiety, boredom. The animals can also prompt sense memory, conversation, form a relationship with humans and sometimes the most important thing they provide is the access to be touched.
And it has been found that five minutes petting an animal can provide more stable blood pressure and calmness than a massage, walk or any other therapy.
So with a team of several dogs and handlers in the room we discussed the history of animal-assisted therapy, the difference between AAA (animal-assisted activity) and AAT (animal-assisted therapy), the benefits of such programs, opposition facilities may encounter and the rewards for all involved.
Not only does the client (patient or care recipient) benefit, but family members, staff, and of course the volunteers themselves. And the animals know they are working and making a difference.
We discussed what makes a solid therapy team and volunteers at both ends of the leash:
- Safety – they should inspire confidence
- Dependability / reliability
- Solid handling skills and obedient animal
- Engagement with clients
- Joyful attitude
- Communication with staff and clients
- Understanding of boundaries, confidentiality
- Knowledge of a variety of situations / client needs
- Willingness to be part of a team
- Outstanding relationship with their own pet
- So it was wonderful having a room full of people who support animal assisted programs and welcome them into their facilities with knowledge, commitment and appreciation.