Animal-Assisted Counseling

Healing and growth in counseling begins with a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship.  

Team Approach and Connection

In play therapy, I do not see children as “broken.”  Rather, I understand that children behave or act in undesirable ways in an effort to get real needs met.  What I can do through play therapy is to help children feel better about themselves; help them feel happier, healthier, and more peaceful, improve their contact with their environment; help them express deep feelings (particularly anger) in appropriate ways; help them experience blocked emotions; and work with parents to learn new methods of setting clear limits with their children.  In addressing these root causes, problematic behaviors often disappear or become less prominent without being specifically addressed.

What are the benefits of AAC?

You may tell your child that he/she will be coming to be with Ms. Kim in a special playroom where there are lots of toys.  If your child wants to know why he/she is going to the playroom, you may say something like “When things are hard for you at home (or at school), sometimes it helps to have a special place to play.”

Are there any risks?

I suggest you let your child wear play clothes you won’t mind getting messy or stained.  Play therapy can get messy.  Although most of the art materials used are labeled “washable,” stains sometimes remain.  When we are outside, children may choose to play with the sand/water table or to pour water from the watering can so it is possible for clothes or shoes to become muddy.

What training do you and your animals have?

Sometimes children can feel very anxious about leaving their caregiver in the waiting room and going back to the playroom.  It is important to the therapeutic process for each child to freely enter, without well-meaning encouragement from parents such as pointing out fun toys in the room or offering rewards for attending.  Holding space together in the waiting room, practicing calmness and maintaining limits can be highly therapeutic interventions for a child!

Isn't this the same as pet therapy?

While I don’t encourage children to bring toys from home, personal toys may sometimes be helpful for a child.  All toys are treated with the same limit-setting as playroom toys.  Still, toys in the playroom sometimes get messy from sand, paint, or mud and I cannot guarantee personal toys will stay clean or unbroken.  The playroom is a screen-free play area.

Is this stressful for your animals?

Avoid asking questions about what your child did, what happened, or was it fun.  Listen carefully and allow your child to lead the conversation.  Sometimes a child may take a painting or other artwork home.  Simply describe what you see, such as “You used lots of colors!”  or “You’re really proud of that” instead of praising the art or asking what it is.

What are some examples?

You are an important part of your child's play therapy experience.  By arriving on time for scheduled appointments and rescheduling when needed, you demonstrate the importance of these sessions to your child.  Parents and caregivers are asked to schedule a separate parent consultation with me every 4-6 weeks so that we can freely talk about your child's progress at home, school, and in sessions.  Additionally, you might consider attending Child-Parent Relationship Training, which is held in a group format periodically throughout the year.  In this six-week "crash course" training, you will learn basic play therapy skills and hold at-home special playtimes with your child.  Research indicates that holding such playtimes can decrease time needed to stay in play therapy and increase play therapy effectiveness.