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Animal Assited Interventions with Sarah Urwin

Aashna Events ‘Counselling & psychotherapy events made accessible for all’ It was our first Aashna event and we couldn’t have hoped for a more beautiful day. The sunshine reflected the energy of the workshop and the warmth we felt being part of an interesting and intimate group. The day began exploring animals that can support therapy, and the issues that we may face as practitioners working with our own pets in private practice. Interesting discussions arose regarding the pet as 'the third' in the relationship and being part of the therapeutic process. In my excitement as a dog owner (Baba), I wanted to know how to work with him in the room. Sarah was wonderful in raising awareness on the impact of this work on our animals and the various ethics of using Animal Assisted Interventions. I began to reflect on which clients I may introduce Baba and where their faith, religion, culture ( to name a few) would welcome this type of work. I reflected on my own belief systems and how I view Animals and my relationship with Baba. Would be ethical of me to work with him in the room and how would it influence how I work? Sarah raised the questions throughout the day:

“Are we imposing out animals onto our clients?” ‘What happens if the animals do not like our clients?’ “Do we know our animals well enough to work with them?’ “Will we be showing/disclosing parts of us that otherwise we may not, by sharing how we are with our pets?”

What was clear, if done sensitively, the role of a animal in therapy can model so much that we work to do in the therapy. The unconditional positive regard, a secure attachment, love from the animal, safety of touch, regulation and more. By early afternoon our tummies were rumbling and while waiting for Baba, the star guest to arrive, we shared a delicious indian lunch in the kitchen. It was a chance for this group of eight to share the morning theory and get to know more about each other and ask Sarah any questions we had. When Baba arrived, I could feel how my attachment already came into play making sure he was settling okay in this new group. Sarah worked well to provide us with useful tips as we watched Baba throughout the afternoon. We observed: how settled he was, how he came to me for security, his eye contact and body language. The term ‘split attention’ was used to reflect the focus we would need to have not only with our clients, but ourselves, the animal in the room and the various layers of the intersubjective space. It was clear Baba had a strong effect on the energy of the group and individuals he was near. It raised rich conversations and provided something more tangible to work with. Having Baba working in this way raised a very important question for me, ‘How would I feel working with Baba, who I regard as a family member, when working with my clients?’ A important question I will need to reflect on further. Sarah is an experienced practitioner with over 20 years experience. Her knowledge was astounding and her training was informative, creative, engaging and I could feel her passion for the work. I highly recommend her workshops if you are thinking about working with animals in therapy. It was a truly blessed first Aashna Event and we couldn’t have hoped for a better day. A special thanks to all that attended and here are a few words from a couple of people who joined us: ‘The Pet Therapy training at Aashna was probably one of the best trainings I have ever attended. Not only was the tutor incredibly knowledgable about her subject, but the Aashna setting provided an intimate and welcoming environment. It was really useful to work in a more experiential way in the afternoon and Baba the dog really facilitated this. I'm already looking forward to the next event and thank you Aashna for your kind hospitality’ Nicky Perl Integrative Counsellor "What a wonderful introduction to Aashna- the Animal Assisted Interventions workshop I attended was delightfully informal yet packed with helpful information,reflection and guidance from Sarah- such a knowledgeable and experienced presenter! The setting itself is accessible, a veritable oasis of calm close to the busy pulse of Finchley. Shammi and Pretish our hosts for the day radiated warmth and respect helping us quickly feel welcome and at ease. In a world were so many therapy settings seem clinical, even austere it is refreshing to see how much care, imagination and love has gone into making this building a haven for all who study or participate in therapy work here. Don’t miss the offer of a delicious veggie Indian lunch whenever that is included in their keenly priced workshops either - I’m rebooking and soon!” Warmly, Jon Blend Adult & child psychotherapist/ trainer 

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