Evidence is starting to gather suggesting that animal assisted therapy can have many psychotherapeutic benefits to people with a variety of conditions.
We believe that Animals Supporting People at FRED can improve a person’s :
• Confidence: Learning a new skill – working with a variety of animals – improves individuals confidence in their ability to tackle new projects, such as recovery, and leads to improved self-esteem.
• Self-Efficacy: Learning to communicate and achieve harmony with a large animal promotes renewed feelings of efficacy. A motivated “I can do it!” replaces feelings of helplessness and lack of motivation, and can empower the person to take on challenges in other areas of their life.
• Self-Concept: Working around large animals helps people to develop a more realistic view of themselves through awareness of their size in relation to the animal. This can be especially important in supporting people with disordered eating as well as those with interpersonal aggression problems.
• Communication: Donkeys (and all animals) have sensitivity to non-verbal communication which assists people in developing greater awareness of their emotions, the non-verbal cues that they may be communicating, and the important role of non-verbal communication in relationships.
• Trust: Learning to trust an animal such as a donkey also aids in the development, or restoration, of trust for those whose ability to trust has been violated by difficult life experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, abandonment or neglect.
• Perspective: Through grooming activities and other types of care for a specific donkey or animal, people are able to put aside the absorbing focus of their mental illness, and instead are able to direct their attention and interests outwardly toward safe and caring interactions.
• Anxiety Reduction: Many studies of human-animal interaction indicate that contact with animals significantly reduces physiological anxiety levels. Some people are initially apprehensive around animals. But our animals’ genuineness and affection allay these fears, helping people to improve their anxiety issues.
• Decreasing Isolation: Many people feel rejected by, and different from, other people for all sorts of valid reasons. Our animals’ unconditional acceptance invites people back into the fellowship of life.
• Self-Acceptance: Some people are initially concerned that they will do something embarrassing while learning about the animals. Yet people quickly learn that other participants are engaged in their own unique experiences, and they observe the comfort of the animals in their own skin. Fears of embarrassment in public are thereby often reduced and self-acceptance increased.
• Impulse Modulation: Particularly for those whose mental ill health involves the experience of lost control over impulses, the need to communicate with a large animal – such as a pony or donkey – calmly and non-reactively promotes the skills of emotional awareness, emotion regulation, self-control, and impulse modulation. Research clearly indicates that animal-assisted therapy reduces people’s agitation and aggressiveness and increases cooperativeness and behavioural control.
• Social Skills: Many individuals with mental ill health are socially isolated or withdrawn. A positive relationship with an animal is often a first, safe step toward practising the social skills needed to initiate closer relationships with people.
• Boundaries: Many people have been in previous controlling relationships and struggle with boundaries. Here healing takes place as people, young and old, discover that donkey and large animal work occurs within the context of a respectful relationship between them and the animal, and that, although physically powerful, each pony or donkey typically operates within the boundaries of this mutually respectful relationship.
• Creative Freedom: Many people have been emotionally inhibited or over-controlled, and have lost some measure of spontaneity. The playful aspects of being around donkeys and other animals can help restore spontaneity and an ability for healthy recreation and play.