Based in Atlanta, GA, Go Fetch Wellness’ mission is to integrate animals into a whole-person approach to mental health treatment. Attendees followed along with Jeff as he explained the differences between emotional support, service, and therapy animals, a summary of the history of animals in therapy, and the benefits of animals for mental health. “By working with the peer support team, we were able to share a variety of ways animals could be considered as a complement to existing programs and groups,” Jeff shared.
Jeff explained that service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks that support a handler’s disability, whereas therapy dogs are trained to bring comfort and joy in specific settings within the community. He then added that Emotional support animals provide the care and emotional comfort to a handler with a psychiatric condition or an intellectual or developmental disability. Following, Jeff incorporated a brief history of how animals have been integrated into therapy ,and the need for more awareness on this. “It is something we shouldn’t ignore, and I think it’s been ignored for too long. So, if Earl and I can keep going, hopefully in a few years you will start seeing a lot more places adapting this type of approach,” Jeff voiced.
Benefits of animals for mental health can vary based on how the handler responds to the specific animal. Positive influences may include providing a routine and structure for the individual, and establishing healthy living patterns such as exercising, and remembering to stay hydrated. Another benefit of having an animal in one’s daily life is receiving unconditional love, the possibility of increasing self-esteem and wellness, and providing the individual with a sense of purpose. Animals do not pass judgement and can enable the feeling of security. “There is something really magical about being able to have an animal show you love when you haven’t loved yourself in forever,” Jeff added.
Jeff was also in town for Vinfen’s 12th annual Moving Images Film Festival as a panelist in the late afternoon on Saturday, March 3 at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School. Both Jeff and Earl are featured in the documentary Beyond Silence, which encourages people to speak up about their mental health and how their lives can be transformed by doing so. Before the day of the training Jeff mentioned that he had walked 9 miles with Earl enjoying the Boston sights, and Earl particularly loved eating fresh snow.
If you would like to learn more about Go Fetch Wellness, visit their website here. A special thank you to Jeff and Earl for presenting such a wonderful training to our staff and for being an awesome film festival panelist!