Shenandoah Community Health (SCH) Behavioral Health is pleased to introduce “Baby,” a year-old golden retriever who was rigorously trained and certified through Therapy Dogs International. Her handler, Dr. Bridget Magnetti, a West Virginia licensed psychologist, has been with SCH for 20 years. Together, they will be the first Canine-Assisted Therapy team at a Federally Qualified Health Center in the regional area. Dr. Magnetti focuses on the treatment of children and adolescents and is inclusive of families also. Baby has been working to offer comfort and love to individuals in a local nursing home for the past two and a half years before bringing this very effective and well-researched intervention to SCH.
In recent years, studies have shown the positive effects of using trained dogs, especially with children where depression, anxiety and severe trauma are present. The therapeutic use of animals can be researched back to the eras of Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Many of the practices that involved animals for therapy were scaled back centuries ago due to religious and cultural practices. Recently, West Virginia University was involved with a study which supported dogs in the workplace as a way to lower stress for workers. Documentation provided statistically significant and positive differences in blood pressure when a dog was present.
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAP) is a clinical field, and it is based on accepted principles and goals of psychotherapy. In a clinical setting, the licensed therapist will integrate certified animals into the healing process. AAP is particularly adaptable to children and adolescents. Dogs can be integrated easily into play therapy with children to increase their sense of security. Children often identify with animals, increasing the needed self-expression for play therapy to facilitate the healing process for emotional and relational needs. Utilizing the canine relationship with the child provides opportunities for the younger client to better process past relational issues and brings these into the here-and-now experience.
Dr. Magnetti and Baby are very grateful for the many people who have come together to give them a chance to provide nurturance and therapy to the people with whom they interact.
For more information on SCH Behavioral Health services, visit www.shencommhealth.com.