Animal therapy helps young people with anxiety

Therapy dog Pablo helped young people with anxiety to feel more calm
Therapy dog Pablo helped young people with anxiety to feel more calm

YOUNG people from Littlehampton, Bognor and Chichester have been given the opportunity to experience some animal therapy.

The innovative Walk and Talk activity, a free outdoor counselling programme, is the first of its kind in West Sussex.

It uses a therapy dog named Pablo to support young people aged 14 to 18 who are experiencing social anxiety.

There is a whole programme of activity-based counselling available, run by Right Here, a youth-led mental health and emotional wellbeing project, in partnership with West Sussex Young People’s Service, and managed by YMCA DownsLink Group.

Other examples include Bushcraft and Equine Therapy, where young people are helped to learn new ways to understand and communicate feelings by interacting with horses.

Project manager Jessica Cotton said: “Companion animals such as dogs and horses can engage us on an empathic level and heighten our awareness of how we relate to those around us.

“Animals live in the present moment and offer us non-judgemental, honest feedback in a way that humans often don’t.

“They teach us to be more aware of the connections between our mind, body and emotions, which can be really helpful when learning to manage mental health issues like anxiety.

“Pablo the dog has given these young people an opportunity to relate with themselves and others in a different way.”

Young people who have taken part in the programme report a decrease in their anxiety levels. They liked the fact the activities were interactive, rather than just talking.

Julie Tidbury, manager of the emotional wellbeing team for the young people’s service, said: “We are thrilled to be able to offer this form of therapy for our young people and families.

“Activity-based therapy offers an alternative form of support to those who need to access this in a more practical based setting.

“The menu of opportunities are broad and exciting and it means that we are able to meet the needs of all young people that come to us for support with building resilience, raising self-esteem and reaching their potential.“

There are still places on the equine therapy and bushcraft therapy in September. Register online at or contact Chloe Foster on 07525 667683.

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