Therapist treats clients with help of farm animals

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT
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Animals are a daily part of many people’s lives, providing love and comfort in good times and bad. In this week’s County Ag Report, Kathy McCarty speaks with a therapist assisting clients deal with a variety of issues, with the help of a few barnyard friends.

Dr. Doolittle may have been on the right track, talking to the animals. Bracal Kilian, a counselor for 20 years, now has an office in New Sweden, specializing in animal-assisted therapy. She says clients of all ages open up more when interacting with animals. Her farm include dogs, cats, horses, cows, goats, donkeys and more.

“A lot of times I’ll have clients come in and they’re really apprehensive and they’re really nervous, and they’ll be greeted by a dog or they’ll see the donkeys in the yard and they’re immediately put at ease,” says Bracal Kilian.

Sessions help clients view therapy in a nontraditional sense. Kilian says they don’t feel they’re exposing their souls and getting no benefit. She says the experience is more organic. Interactions with the animals can help bring issues to the surface.

“I might be out with a client who - we’re in the middle of the cows and they get rambunctious, and they just kind of shut down, and them we can come back and we can reflect about ‘What was that like for you?’ ‘What were other times in your life where you were approached by something that was big and scary and you just shut down?’” says Kilian.

Watching animals interact can help participants reflect on their own behaviors.

Kilian says, “There might be some bullying going on in that moment, head-butting - typical goat behavior. But we’re able to then articulate 'Gosh, what do you notice? What do you think that goat was feeling when they were being pushed around? Or ‘What do you think that goat felt when, you know, they were in control and in power?’ And then we’re able to start a dialogue that’s not as threatening as ‘Why are you a bully at school?’ You know, ‘What’s happening with you?’”

Clients sign a liability waiver and much of each session is spent outside, so proper attire is a must. Kilian says clients are never left alone with the animals. For more information, visit A Better Day Counseling on facebook.

Copyright 2020 WAGM. All rights reserved.

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