One of the questions we are asked the most is what does Animal Assisted Therapy look like at Beyond the Clinic Room?
Flexibility is at the heart of our approach in animal assisted therapies at Beyond the Clinic Room, so individual sessions will look different from person to person, depending on what you need from us. We aim to provide the level of knowledge and clinical expertise of meeting with a Clinical Psychologist in a clinic, with a setting that is outdoors, in nature, and the therapeutic power of animals.
Our first priority is to help you feel comfortable in meeting, that means we might spend the first session in our indoor space, outdoors sitting on part of the track, or walking around the some of the track (or a bit of all of these) - whatever helps you feel most relaxed. Our therapy animal team is a key part of this process, whether that be with Jara the therapy dog (who loves nothing more than a cuddle), or spending time with one of our horses. There is absolutely no pressure to interact with the horses straight away, and often it can feel safer to build up to this over time. Our indoor clinic space leads directly onto an area that can have therapy horses in, so you can see them, and meet them through the fence, without having to go in.
The aim of the first few sessions is to do an assessment, to develop an understanding of what’s going on, what you hope to be different, and whether we are the right fit for working together. We also really like to focus on your strengths and building on these. For adolescents, we mostly tend to meet with both the young person and parents/carers in the first session, so we can hear from everyone. We often find it helpful to fill in some questionnaires; we can do this while out with one of the horses or out walking if this feels easier. Generally, our assessment style is conversational, and we aim to try and make this feel a relaxed process.
After this, we develop an understanding of what might be going on, a plan for our work together, and suggest what we think might help. Often our suggestion might be an extended assessment process over a number of weeks, as we know that talking about what brings you to us and what’s been difficult can be really tough (and often stops people coming to therapy), and sometimes can be the most important part. A large focus of our work is developing relationships between us, and with the animals, as we know that we are able to learn the most about ourselves in therapy in safe therapeutic relationships.
We use Equine Assisted Psychotherapy models, alongside more traditional clinic based approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) adapted for partnering with animals.
Individual sessions will often look different but broadly may consist of the following aspects; spending time with a therapy horse, observing the larger herd, and spending time with therapy dog Jara. This is often outdoors (we are used to the rain!), but also includes meeting in our indoor therapy space.
The number of sessions will really depend on your needs and goals, but we usually recommend six sessions, followed by a review of progress. Sometimes six sessions is enough; but sometimes therapy takes 12 to 18 sessions or occasionally, longer. We don’t promise quick fixes, as we don’t think this is fair or ethical, but we do promise that we will regularly review if there is anything we need to change in our approach and work collaboratively with you.
Our aim is to help you feel safe with us to work through things, and whilst therapy can sometimes make things feel a bit worse before they get better, we aim to help you leave each session feeling calm and grounded. Our therapy animals are great at helping with this.
If you would like to hear more about Animal Assisted Therapy at Beyond the Clinic Room in Kent, from qualified Clinical Psychologist, Dr Charis Green, you can find our contact details here.
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