Have you ever noticed that when you see a new puppy or get to pet an animal, there’s something a bit lighter about all of your problems for a moment? Your mood brightens, even for just a short time, and it allows a little light into your heart that maybe wasn’t there before. Pets can provide a sense of unconditional love and calmness that we don’t always feel with another person. It’s even been shown that animals can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. And the scientific research beyond that has shown a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate and an increase in oxytocin when we are interacting with animals.
That’s where Pet Therapists come in. Pets used in the therapeutic process can be very helpful in sessions and can be used for a wide variety of goals like improving self-esteem, developing social skills, as well as helping with post-traumatic stress disorder anxiety. Patients have reported less pain when interacting with a Pet Therapist and children with autism have shown an increase in positive social behaviors. These pets can also work in a variety of clinical settings, including psychiatric hospitals, therapist offices, and nursing homes.
Parker, the Village Center’s new Pet Therapist, is certified through Pittsburgh’s Animal Friends’ Therapet Program. Pet assisted therapy is a specialty that can be incorporated into traditional therapy sessions. Not to be confused with a service or emotional support dog, Parker is trained to offer comfort and affectionate support to individuals other than his owner. Pet assisted therapy services are currently offered at the Village Center for Holistic Therapy with Therapist Jenna Weidner, LCSW. In addition to therapy sessions at the Village, Parker volunteers visiting with individuals and families residing in the HOPE Center Domestic Violence Shelter, Good Samaritan Hospice respite home, UPMC Shadyside Hospital and Reading with Rover (a program offered to assist children with reading).
Parker was born in November of 2016. He is a long haired dachshund with a charismatic personality. Parker is very people friendly and enjoys working with individuals of all ages. He loves to play with other dogs and take naps. Parker goes EVERY WHERE with Jenna. The hair salon, hiking, and swimming. Parker has been to several camping places, the beach, fairs, and soccer games. He also loves to go in the car and be around people.
Please feel free to contact Jenna with any questions about Parker or pet assisted therapy at the Village Center. 412-455-6890 ext. 524