Animal-Assisted Therapy

animal assisted therapy amy sugeno marble falls texas

Update: At 11 years old, “Dr. Cooper” is now officially in retirement, after many years of helping people, both at the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center and in my private practice. 

Therapy animals have been a formal part of therapeutic healing and rehabilitation programs for nearly 50 years. The psychological and emotional benefits of animal-assisted therapy are many, such as:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Reduced depression and loneliness
  • Helps therapy feel safer
  • Easier to talk about difficult subjects
  • Increased relaxation
  • Better ability to cope with difficulties
  • Increased happiness
  • Improved self-confidence

How does it work?

My therapy dog, Cooper, can be present in your counseling sessions as a calming presence, which can be especially helpful if you are talking about difficult things. He can simply be next to you on the couch, or you can call him to you when you need some extra comfort or a little break during your session.

Why animal-assisted therapy?

When it comes to treating trauma, non-verbal activities and therapies, such as animal-assisted therapy, offer important access to the parts of the brain where trauma memory is stored and allow for safe and regulating ways to reach those parts of the brain essential for repair and healing. In addition to outdoor therapy, we can incorporate many other non-verbal therapies into your counseling process, such as outdoor therapy or other natural interests and strengths you may have.

What’s Cooper like?

Born in Somerville, Texas, Cooper is an 8 ½ year old yellow Labrador retriever. He is gentle, affectionate, and sensitive, and he provides a steady and calm presence when someone is feeling down, nervous, or upset. He has some social anxiety around other dogs, but loves people. Cooper worked at the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center with Amy for two years, providing a soothing, and sometimes humorous, presence for Amy’s adult and teen clients. Now in his golden years, his greatest joys are eating, sleeping, and going on walks.

But I’m afraid of (or allergic to) dogs.

In general, Cooper will be in the office for counseling sessions only one day a week. If you do not wish to have him there, you can schedule your appointment on a day when Cooper is not there. Alternatively, I will have a secure crate available at all times, so if you need to make your appointment on a day when Cooper is there, but do not want him to participate in your session, he can relax in his crate during your session time.

If you are allergic to dogs, please note Cooper arrives to work freshly bathed, which should help minimize shedding and allergens. We also have a cleaning service, which includes regular vacuuming of the carpets and floor. I have an air purifier in my office to minimize allergens, and a hand vacuum, which I will use on the couch after each day Cooper is in the office.