In Nebraska, equine therapy is slowly becoming more understood and utilized. Equine therapy, or horse therapy, has been proven as an effective form of both occupational and physical therapy, as well as beneficial to victims of trauma, and individuals with other behavioral health challenges such as eating disorders or substance abuse.
However, if we lived on the coast, there would another form of animal therapy available to us, dolphin therapy. Dolphin assisted therapy is a form of aquatic therapy that was first created to help patients with depression. The thought behind this unique form of therapy was that offering therapy in a pleasant environment alongside dolphins would help improve symptoms of depression by reducing stress and elevating mood. Encounters with dolphins often evoke a deep emotional response, and trigger the release of deep feelings, and emotions.
It is believed that children are more responsive to Dolphin Assisted Therapy because when they get to play in a pleasant environment, they are more motivated to complete the tasks, they are happy, and therefore they pay greater attention to the therapists’ work. It has also been suggested that dolphins can sense areas of disability and physical trauma in the human body. They then motivate the clients to use these injured or weaker parts during the session.
While dolphin therapy can help alleviate symptoms associated with depression, autism, ADHD, and other neurological disorders, it is not a cure. Nor is this type of therapy covered by insurance. Maybe someday with more research and evidence, Dolphin Assisted Therapy will become a more widely recognized form of treatment.
After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their therapy session at a facility on the beach?
About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank, and YWCA. Since becoming Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation in April 2014, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, the Metro Area LOSS Team, and is helping lead a community-wide health improvement initiative with the Douglas County Health Department called, “Just Reach Out,” which is focused on improving the people’s view on mental and behavioral health treatment.