#089: Animal-Assisted Counseling with Jennifer and Eclipse

by | June 26, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Jennifer + Eclipse

Jennifer’s Bernedoodle Eclipse partners with her in Animal-Assisted Counseling as a therapy assistant.

In this 89th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I welcome Jennifer Uhlman, a Marriage and Family Therapist, and her Bernedoodle, Eclipse. Jennifer shares the unique journey that led Eclipse from service dog training to partnering with her in Animal-Assisted Counseling, an unexpected pivot due to Eclipse’s health and anxiety-related issues.

Jennifer shares how Eclipse’s empathy and emotional intelligence became clear as she witnessed her natural reactions to their clients’ feelings. Eclipse even showed an instinctive response when a client spoke negatively about themselves, signaling a deep understanding of emotional cues. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the innate potential of dogs for therapeutic roles.

Our conversation sheds light on the significant role of Therapy Dogs in therapy sessions. Jennifer’s experiences with Eclipse reveal how invaluable she has been in her practice. Whether helping children from trauma backgrounds build their self-esteem or providing a non-threatening avenue for clients to communicate, Eclipse breaks down barriers and makes therapy sessions more accessible. This illustrates the extraordinary effectiveness of therapy dogs in fostering a safer, more open therapeutic environment.

Finally, Jennifer provides an important reminder about respecting and recognizing a Therapy Dog’s needs. She explains the signs Eclipse gives when she needs a break and emphasizes the importance of giving he rest days when needed. This serves as a reminder that therapy animals, like humans, require regular breaks, rest, and overall care for their wellbeing. This vital consideration ensures that therapy dogs can continue to provide their best support to clients.

By the end of our discussion, you’ll have a profound understanding of the unique roles and benefits of Therapy Dogs in therapeutic settings, the emotional intelligence they can display, and the crucial considerations for their care and wellbeing. This episode is a must-listen for anyone involved in, or considering, Animal-Assisted Counseling.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • What it was like for Eclipse to transition from a Service Dog in training to a therapeutic assistant in Animal-Assisted Counseling.
  • How Eclipse has been helped clients in her therapy practice.
  • Why it’s important to recognize when your dog needs a break.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:01:13] Jennifer Uhlman introduces herself and her therapy dog Eclipse, who work together in the Southern California, Orange County area.
  • [00:01:41] Jennifer shares how Eclipse transitioned from being a service dog in training to a therapy assistant due to medical and allergy issues.
  • [00:05:28] A surprising aspect Jennifer discovered was how Eclipse instinctively responds to clients’ emotions, such as discouraging negative self-talk.
  • [00:08:12] Despite not being certified through any Therapy Dog organizations, Eclipse primarily serves as a therapeutic assistant in Jennifer’s work.
  • [00:10:48] Sherrie refers to advice from Dr. Taylor Chastain Griffin about mastering your field before introducing new elements, like an animal, into therapy work.
  • [00:12:03] The shift to telehealth during the Covid-19 pandemic made it easier for Jennifer to incorporate Eclipse into her therapy work.
  • [00:12:16] Jennifer uses Eclipse as an external representation of fears and behavioral issues, which is particularly helpful for her younger clients.
  • [00:16:06] Before having Eclipse present during therapy sessions, Jennifer ensures her adult clients are comfortable with the dog.
  • [00:20:13] Jennifer explains the key differences between Service Dog and Therapy Dog training, emphasizing that Service Dogs need to remain focused on their work.
  • [00:24:03] Jennifer highlights the importance of recognizing when a therapy dog needs a break, especially during stressful times like after a vet visit.
  • [00:26:17] Understanding the differences between Service Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs is vital, according to Jennifer, who also underlines the unique benefits animals can bring to therapeutic settings.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

Mentioned in this episode:

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