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Goatlandia offers animal assisted therapy for groups and individuals

Goatlandia in Sebastopol is offering animal assisted therapy for groups and individuals using their farm animals. The sanctuary manager of Goatlandia, Brenda Rynders, is in charge of the program and facilitates the therapy.

Rynders fell in love with the notion of animal assisted therapy during her master’s program. “The relationships that develop between humans and animals is incredibly beautiful and therapeutic, and I decided to focus on developing my skills as an animal assisted therapy practitioner in order to bring the healing power of the human-animal bond to others,” explained Rynders.

Animal assisted therapy works by involving people with all aspects of animal life at the farm sanctuary. “Individuals or groups are able to interact with a variety of animals and take part in focus tasks, such as providing enrichment to the animals, cleaning the animal pastures and barns, feeding treats, brushing and grooming the animals, meditating in the pastures and reading to the animals,” stated Rynders.

At-risk youth are one group that can greatly benefit from animal assisted therapy. According to Rynders, “In the foster-care system, these kids don’t have the opportunity to meet animals like farm animals, and at least meet them in the dynamic where we view them as friends and we don’t view them as food and they’re able to make these different types of connections with them on such a therapeutic and healing level and also being able to know that they are in a safe space with these animals.”

Rynders believes that it is important to have repeated, ongoing therapy sessions with the animals. Rynders explained, “I absolutely love when my long-term clients arrive, and they are elated to see their favorite animal and the animals are just as excited to see them! It creates a special and lasting bond.”

Rynders explained that animal assisted therapy is not a replacement for traditional therapeutic interventions. It is instead a compliment to the treatment process. “I have some individuals who attend weekly in order to gain additional skills that they can take with them into the community, while others come to have a positive interaction with an animal in an outdoor environment,” said Rynders.

The animal assisted therapy sessions range between 30-60 minutes and the first session serves as an introduction to the animals, explained Rynders. “This allows me to learn more about the client or clients and witness the connections firsthand that are formed with the animal residents. From there, I tailor each experience in a way that benefits both the human or humans and animal or animals involved and incorporate a variety of activities that promote a positive well-being.”

Animal assisted therapy benefits more than just the client. Rynders explained that the facilitator helps guide the interactions between the client and the animal. The client is the human who benefits from the healing experience and the animal is the conduit of the healing process, who also benefits significantly from the positive experience.

Individuals and organizations can reach out directly to Rynders to take part in animal assisted therapy by emailing her at brenda@goatlandia.org

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