Working with animals to help people

Working with animals to help people

By Liz Lockhart

An innovative approach to counselling has been launched in the West Midlands by Kathryn Kimbley.  HumAnima CIC is a social enterprise providing a professional humanistic counselling and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) service to individuals and organisations in the West Midlands area.

At present, HumAnima CIC’s developing projects are centred on counselling services for disadvantaged communities who otherwise may not be able to access such vital aid.  The company is also aiming to work together with local businesses and establishments to offer its services.

Kathryn, HumAnima CIC’s Director and Counsellor, has always had a passion for animals and, when deciding on a career path, was unsure how to combine her love of animals together with her desire to help people.  Animal Assisted Therapy has allowed her to do both.

Kathryn told Mental Healthy ‘In today’s climate people are under increasing pressure and stress to succeed but with fewer resources. This means that many people are neglecting their health, well-being and especially mental health. Working with therapy animals and nature in counselling is less intimidating and means that people are able to approach and address their mental well-being in a more familiar and relaxed manner with the comforting reassurance of a therapy animal present.’

Kathryn’s social enterprise was recognised by UnLtd. and, thanks to their generous support, her dream is now a reality. As a Community Interest Company (CIC), a form of social enterprise, HumAnima CIC is a not-for-profit organisation where all profits made are reinvested back into the business to further its development, reach and potential.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an approach that has developed over the years as a result of professionals recognising the inherent value and benefits associated with interacting with animals. Research has shown that the presence of animals can have a calming or de-stressing effect on people. It has also been suggested that including animals in therapy may serve as a buffer and divert attention from a situation which could make a client extremely anxious.

Kathryn says ‘It is important to remember that no two people are the same. One in four of us will experience mental illness at some point in our lives. This might take form in many different ways such as depression, anxiety or general stress but we may not notice that something is wrong until things aren’t going in quite the same way as we had hoped.’

The main counselling approach that is used at HumAnima CIC is known as 'Person-centred' counselling or 'Client-centred Therapy'. This approach is non-directive but relies on providing three 'core conditions' that will support and enable the client to reach their full potential.

Kathryn uses her four-year old English Cocker Spaniel, Flossie, in her therapy sessions. She is a very even tempered and well trained Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, which means that she has passed an assessment which has recognised her as being suitable for therapeutic visits to different public locations such as schools, hospitals or residential homes.

The last few years have been spent setting up the business, developing the services that will be on offer and continuing research to help ensure the business is a success. With everything in place, HumAnima CIC will now be able to offer private and confidential counselling services to individuals who feel they may benefit from one-to-one counselling be it because of stress, depression, anxiety, any other mental health difficulties or just to offload. Clients will have the choice of having Flossie, Kathryn’s Therapy Dog, present or not in their sessions together.

Kathryn Kimbley is HumAnima CIC’s director and counsellor. She graduated with a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Keele University in Staffordshire. She has a longstanding interest in psychology, mental health wellbeing, nature and ecopsychology.

Kathryn told Mental Healthy that ‘“Whilst not everybody likes animals, everybody at some point in their life has had dealings with nature in some form or another. Be it in passing, through active interaction or just by talking about it. Including the theme of nature into counselling can bring about a connection and association between the therapist and client that encourages rapport thus helping the therapeutic process.”

For more information contact Humanima CIC by email: [email protected]

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