Mental health professional Xochitl is making a positive impact with her Labradoodle Lucy, a certified Therapy Dog.
In this 34th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Xochitl, a mental health professional in Southern California who, through her work in social services and social work, saw the impact Therapy Dogs were making in schools and decided that she wanted to do the same. After dong some research, she found Lucy—a Labradoodle who became the perfect addition to her family at the same time as participating in pet therapy through volunteering and working with Xochitl.
Xochitl learned quite a bit while navigating the challenges of training a dog during COVID and shares what it was like to look for volunteer opportunities during a worldwide pandemic. Nevertheless, she persisted and she and Lucy found many opportunities to grow their bond together at the same time as making an impact with those around them.
What’s next for them? Xochitl hopes to open a private practice this summer where Lucy will work alongside her to continue to help the children and adults who come their way. She shares a few examples of the unique connection canines can make on people who don’t benefit as much from talk therapy alone and we talk about some of the other examples of Animal Assisted Therapy in research as well a some of the special considerations such as insurance.
If you’re ready to hear more from Xochitl and her positive pooch Lucy, let’s dive in:
In this episode, we discuss …
- How Xochitl discovered Therapy Dogs in her work as a mental health professional.
- What she does to continue Lucy’s socialization and skill development.
- Things you may want to know when working with a dog in a professional setting.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [00:52] Xochitl shares how she discovered Therapy Dogs through seeing their work in the schools she’s been in as a mental health professional.
- [01:41] Why Xochitl decided that a doodle was the right fit for her goals.
- [02:42] Xochitl talks about how working with a private trainer was helpful in assessing Lucy for Therapy Dog work.
- [03:19] What makes Lucy a natural at helping others and seeking them out.
- [04:37] Xochitl shares what it was like to set out on this journey during COVID times and how people are still a bit nervous about being around each other.
- [05:21] The importance of ongoing socialization with Lucy and how it’s helped to grow their relationship.
- [05:49] Lucy’s brother Spirit and the difference in their bond and demeanor.
- [06:15] Xochitl shares about the classrooms that she and Lucy visit and their upcoming plans to work together in private practice through Animal Assisted Therapy with children and adults.
- [07:11] The difference in the experience of working in Animal Assisted Therapy vs volunteering in pet therapy and how it make an impact on the insurance coverage that you need.
- [08:07] The additional training Xochitl has taken in order to inform and shape the way that Lucy works alongside her with clients as a mental health professional.
- [08:56] Xochitl describes the feeling of connecting with others while on a dog therapy visit with Lucy.
- [09:34] The impact that Lucy can bring that Xochitl feels she can’t make on her own.
- [10:36] Advice that many of the organizations, including Alliance of Therapy Dogs, provide scholarships.
- [10:58] If you’re watching the video, you can see Lucy’s bandana and bow for Mental Health Month
- [11:06] A quick introduction to their bandana shop Pooch Positive.
- [11:14] “As far as doing dog therapy, as long as Lucy is healthy and happy doing it—we’re going to keep doing it.”
- [11:41] If you’re watching the video, you can see Lucy show off some of her training.
- [11:47] The importance of keeping training cues fresh and ongoing obedience skills to keep their manners in place.
- [12:21] We talk about agility training and how a mental health professional can implement it in Animal Assisted Counseling work.
- [13:17] How Lucy can reach kids who are not as verbal or who have experienced trauma in a way that inhibits the effectiveness of talk therapy.
- [13:46] A quick shout out to examples of dogs helping kids in the book Playful Approaches to Serious Problems.
- [14:08] Xochitl’s experience with hospital Therapy Dog requirements and the difficulty of working with the hours that they had available.
- [15:00] A reminder that hospitals tend to work with specific organizations and to find out who they work with if that’s where you want to volunteer.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- Alliance of Therapy Dogs
- Canine Assisted Interventions: A Comprehensive Guide to Credentialing Therapy Dog Teams by John-Tyler Binfet and Elizabeth Kjellstrand Hartwig
- Playful Approaches to Serious Problems: Narrative Therapy with Children and their Families by David Epston, Jennifer Freeman, and Dean Lobovits
- Positive Pooch
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