In order for counselors to affect change, they must prove there is a need for the change; they must “have a vision of change; be persistent . . .” (Gibson, 2010, p. 352), and be able to provide evidence to back up the issue they are advocating for. The issue I would like to advocate for is the integration of animal-assisted therapy into more counseling settings. This type of therapy can be used effectively in a variety of settings, including private practice, prisons, nursing homes, detention centers, hospitals, schools, etc. It is particularly effective with at-risk children and adolescents, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations (Franchy, 2011). When animals are used in therapy, it makes it easier for counselors to build positive therapeutic alliances with their clients. Many children and adolescents prefer to communicate in non-verbal ways; therefore, when a counselor brings an animal, such as a dog, into the ...view middle of the document...
1). It enables many different types of clients to open up more freely and express themselves in ways they would not have otherwise.
There are endless benefits to using animals in therapy work, but more research needs to be done in order to prove its effectiveness when implemented in a variety of different settings and with various populations. Therefore, I would assist organizations such as the Center for Animal Assisted Therapy (CAAT) in conducting more research on this issue. I would create more public awareness by giving presentations at counseling conferences as well as in communities, schools, youth detention centers, hospitals, convalescent homes, etc. Also, publishing articles in journals about the benefits of animal-assisted therapy would help support this issue as well. I would develop programs that are geared to improve people’s health through the use of pet ambassadors. I would also participate in workshops and volunteer at various organizations in support of this issue.
According to Gibson (2010), when counselors advocate, they need to consider the resources they have such as how much money and time it will take to publicize a specific issue. Therefore, if I obtain enough resources and support, I could present this issue at animal shelters/humane societies, and at the same time, possibly recruit (or adopt) shelter animals who can be rehabilitated and trained as therapy animals. This would not only be supporting the issue, but it would also be helping to save the lives of animals.
It is important for mental health counselors to be advocates because in doing so, they create positive changes that make a difference in the lives of their clients; they affect change for the good of communities, themselves, and the counseling profession. For example, advocating for the integration of more animal-assisted therapy will help to enhance people’s well-being by creating positive human-animal interactions; it will also promote more research and create more public awareness. Overall, advocating for this issue will encourage more mental health professionals working in different settings to implement animal-assisted therapy into their existing practice.