• 07 Nov 2014

    CAPTI Expands, Offers Canine-Assisted Play Therapy

    Rook, a Sheltie therapy dog, joins CAPTI with owner Jennifer Main, a licensed counselor and play therapist. OXFORD, Miss. – The new therapist at the University of Mississippi’s Child Advocacy and Play Therapy Institute doesn't fit the traditional image for his profession. He walks on all fours, wags his tail constantly and plays well with children.

    As part of CAPTI’s continued growth, the institute has expanded its services to include canine-assisted play therapy. Play therapy is a rapidly growing field among mental health clinicians, allowing children experiencing stress or trauma to process their emotions in a healthy, playroom environment.

    Rook, a 1-year-old Shetland sheepdog, or sheltie, comes to CAPTI with owner Jennifer Austin Main, a registered play therapist and a doctoral student in counseling at the UM School of Education.

    “For me, it’s unusual to be in a therapy session without a dog,” explained Main, a Grenada native who worked in private practice in Georgia for eight years before joining CAPTI. “He’s my co-therapist. Many of the children just call me the ‘Dog Lady.’ They all remember Rook’s name though.”

    Introducing canine companionships into a play therapy setting can help build a bridge of trust between adults and children, allowing children to express themselves freely while interacting with the animal. Learning to trust animals can help children become more confident in their interactions with people. Counseling research shows this can be especially true among children who may have attachment issues or who have experienced abuse, Main said.

    At CAPTI, the counselors decide as a group whether a child is a good candidate for canine-assisted play therapy after an initial session. Since beginning in August, Rook and Main have taken on at least five new clients.

    “Through interaction with canines, a child has the opportunity to build an attachment that is safer than what they may have experienced before,” said Marilyn Snow, CAPTI director and founder. “With Rook, it’s like the child can experiment with the dog in his or her interactions. Rook has a gentle way helping the child feel calm. He doesn’t do anything that is frightening and the child learns to interact in a way that builds trust.”

    Besides its expansion into canine-assisted play therapy, CAPTI is also expanding its services to offer counseling for adolescents, adults and specialized counseling for parents. Using the latest counseling methods that utilize new neuroscience research, the approach for offering psychotherapy to adolescents and adults is based on what’s called interpersonal neurobiology, Snow said.

    “In the past 20 years, neuroscience research has shown that the brain grows and develops through a process called neuroplasticity,” she explained. “The interpersonal neurobiology approach can help therapists use interactions and communication methods that can change the chemical patterns in the brain and enhance the healthy firing of neurons in a way that supports healthy emotional well-being.”

    Housed at Insight Park, CAPTI has been an Association for Play Therapy-approved center for play therapy education since 2011 and was reaccredited by the APT in September for another three years. The institute maintains a no-turn-away policy for all children and their families and offers its services on an income-based scale and can accept health insurance for services. Some clients travel from far away as eastern Arkansas and east Tennessee.

    For more information about CAPTI and its services, visit: http://capti.olemiss.edu. To schedule an appointment, call 662-915-719

    Read More at: news.olemiss.edu