Pet Therapy

During Fundamentals Week at MSPP there was one thing that was emphasized more than anything else: Self-Care. Every professor present even let us newcomers in on their personal self-care secrets. Some are devoted to their television programs while others love to cook, sleep, exercise, or play Angry Birds for hours on end.

I will admit that self-care seemed like a foreign concept to me. I will also admit that it certainly wasn’t something I had prioritized -even after all of that urging during Fundamentals. However, while at my practicum site last week, I was pleasantly re-reminded of just how important it is to practice self-care.

After I met with my supervisor for our weekly meeting last Monday I went back to my office to delve into writing another psychosocial history for one of the residents. I had not been in my office long when I was startled by the obnoxious ring of the office telephone. “I have someone in my office who would like to meet you,” said my supervisor on the other end of the line. I assumed it was a new resident or possibly a new clinician.

I was wrong on both accounts.  As I walked through the door a Portuguese Water Dog came rushing over to me. She laid her head down on my knee and playfully nudged my hand with her nose. I took the cue to pet her. I was instantly overcome with positive emotions. It was as if all of my stresses were temporarily absent from my mind.

My supervisor informed me that the dog’s name was Aurora. She was a trained therapy dog and we would be using her to work with one of the residents. The idea of having Aurora on grounds was a bittersweet reality for me. I absolutely love animals but Aurora’s adorable face was a painful reminder of the little dogs I had left back in Arizona.

While I was leaving my practicum that night it finally occurred to me that I had exercised self-care before. My two little creatures (a Dachshund and a Shih Tzu/Poodle mix) were my self-care! I would walk them, play with them, cuddle them… They always knew how to make me feel better when I was feeling down or overwhelmed. They gave me such joy and comfort.

Even though my little creatures are in AZ for the time being it gives me peace to know that I now have a makeshift self-care option. I certainly plan on taking advantage of it whenever possible. Even just the thought of  Aurora becoming my new furry friend lifts my spirits. How many other people can say that they get self-care at work or their practicum/internship site? Most people have to get away from those places to get self-care. Not me! Now I have one more reason to love my practicum site!

And because I can’t help myself -call me a proud “mother”- I am adding a video for your viewing pleasure. My girls are the best self-care anyone could ever ask for.

For whatever reason they find it satisfying to play like little weasels. It never failed to make me laugh. (Please excuse the concrete flooring.)


About jgarciamspp

Hello! My name is Jessica Garcia. I am an Arizona native and have moved to the greater Boston area to attend graduate school at MSPP. I graduated, summa cum laude, from Arizona State University (the Barrett Honors College). I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I am currently a 1st year Clinical PsyD student, doing my practicum at FMC Devens. On a more personal note, I love music, theater, reading, learning new languages, and my little dog.
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    It is well documented that touch is very important for the nourishment of the mind and body. For some people, touch from another person is not always a viable option especially for older adults who may have lost a life partner, but the warm, furry touch of a dog or cat is. A house pet will always be there for you eager and ready to please his or her master.

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