Most people are familiar with animal-assisted activities when animals are brought into health or educational environments to spend time with clients and enjoy the closeness and comfort of an animal. There is no direct supervision by a related professional, the visits can be spontaneous and involve many people or animals at a time and have no stated outcome or goal.
But what makes meeting with an animal-assisted therapy team an intervention?
An intervention requires a set goal from the outset, a thoughtfully constructed protocol, the right match of handler, animal, client and professional and supervised and documented sessions.
The Response to Intervention program that Love Dog Adventures has initiated comes in many varieties. But always the end goal is to bring about a result. The sessions are scheduled at a specific time, managed by the health or education professionals in tandem with the animal-assisted therapy handler or program director and always documented. Sometimes this involves just one meeting to see the Response to Intervention and make the determination if animal-assisted participation would be productive. Sometimes they continue over great lengths of time such as one child who worked with his Love Dogs every week for three years, always with a new goal in mind.
The process begins with a thorough understanding of the client’s capabilities or desired goal for the intervention. This is where the team work begins between the therapy program, specific handler and animal and professionals bringing in the animals.
The animal handler must know in advance what the goal is and then prepare to try different modalities to reach that goal. Is it to encourage direct eye contact, touch or focus? Is it to aide with mobility or comprehension?
- Do we need an animal that can back up or walk at any pace using the Pet Partners method of double-leash walking?
- Do we need an animal that will remain still and quiet and calm for a long period of time just waiting for that exact moment of connection, perhaps a brief touch?
- Do we need an animal that will bark on command or make sudden movements only when asked to?
- Do we need an animal that just looks right into your eyes with love and compassion and will hold that gaze for as long as it takes for the desired response from the client?
- Are we striving for the client to show emotion or relax overflowing emotion?
- Are we striving for the client to engage more or calm down?
- Are we striving for the client to reach out and touch or restrain unpredictable movements?
Love Dog Adventures believes that every interaction can and often does become an intervention and the teams are prepared to work closely with the professionals in many areas. It is never just about bringing an animal into the mix. It is always “how can we harness the power of the human-animal connection to achieve a goal?”
For more information about Love Dog Adventures visit www.lovedogadventures.org.