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Therapy Dog Moves in with CenterPoint Residents
By West Kentucky Star Staff
PADUCAH, KY - CenterPoint Recovery Center for Men, a six-month, residential drug treatment facility, knows the importance of a social support system in early recovery. But, in a unique approach, the staff at CenterPoint decided this support can come from anywhere.

Last month, CenterPoint added Sami to the staff. She is young, has brown hair, is a good listener and full of energy. She has already proven to be a huge asset to CenterPoint staff and their clients. The fact that Sami is puppy makes her no less valuable. After rescuing Sami from the local pound, she has wagged her tail into the hearts of staff and residents alike.

Thelma Hunter, Director of CenterPoint said, “Sami helps residents learn the values of service, empathy, teamwork, trust, self-expression, cooperation and communication.”

Amid the difficult work of recovery, dogs like Sami can offer a nonjudgmental ear and frequent opportunities to laugh and release tension.

She continued, “The natural bond that develops between people and dogs can be particularly therapeutic for clients who are treatment-resistant or who have struggled opening up or making connections in past treatment programs.”

Research studies have been documenting the therapeutic effects domestic animals have on human recovery for years. When someone who suffers from an acute or chronic illness is placed with a therapy pet, they experience benefits like lower stress levels, diminishment of anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, higher self-esteem, and even, in some cases, a reduction in severity of physical pain. Furthermore, an emotional bond usually develops between the person and the animal, a relationship that encourages healing and recovery in the individual. Recovery Centers are just now beginning to use animal assisted therapy.

Although Sami has no formal Therapy Dog training (specially trained dogs can costs thousands of dollars) her ability to connect with clients is no less effective.

Jordan Tinnell has been a CenterPoint resident for the last six weeks. He formed a bond with Sami almost the moment she walked in the door.

He said, “She’s awesome! There is no better word. She has helped me a lot in my recovery. Her ability to balance out stress and take my mind off my problems has gotten me through some tough times already. Not only is Sami a great listener, she helps me relax and has even taught me some responsibility. She has to be fed, and walked and brushed every day. Before I came to CenterPoint I really didn’t even know what it meant to be responsible. Sami has shown me.”

Hunter said, “Having Sami also adds to the home-like environment we are creating here at CenterPoint. Many of our clients were homeless or had a home life that was full of drugs and even violence. For a lot of residents, CenterPoint is the only home they have ever had.”

CenterPoint’s animal-assisted addiction treatment therapy focuses on two main goals: building nurturing relationships and reassuming adult responsibility. Sami helps residents achieve both of these goals. On an emotional level, she enlivens, encourages, and consoles. Sami gives love and affection without judgment, responds positively to demonstrations of affection and encourages playfulness. This gives clients more confidence in opening up, showing affection, and building emotional bonds.

As Tinnell said, residents care for Sami, and therefore, she is dependent on them for her care. Being held accountable and responsible for Sami’s well being helps residents rebuild feelings of self-worth. By facing the manageable, yet firm responsibility of caring for Sami, clients are compelled to step outside of themselves and develop meaning and purpose through tasks all while providing love and companionship for another living creature. This develops purpose and proactivity where there was once only dependency. 

Information for this article provided by J. Patrick Kerr of Four Rivers Behavioral Health

Published 04:02 AM, Sunday Apr. 16, 2017
Updated 10:49 PM, Monday Apr. 17, 2017

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