By: Kryss Shane
Book review of
Animal-Assisted Brief Therapy: A Solution-Focused Approach, Teri Pichot and Marc Coulter
Animal-Assisted Brief Therapy: A Solution-Focused Approach, Teri Pichot and Marc Coulter, The Haworth Press, Binghamton, NY, 2007, 244 pages (including Appendices and Index), $39.95 hardbound, $29.95 softbound.
This book is written in a very linear manner, with each chapter building off the previous ones. It starts off with explanations of each topic before diving into details and ideas, written so that both readers new to therapy and those with a great deal of experience are able to follow along without anyone feeling uninformed or as if this book is too basic.
The introduction and first chapter give the authors’ discussion of personal experiences with dogs, giving the reader a list of what to expect from each chapter. It immediately differentiates between Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy (AAA/T, which uses trained animals as part of the therapeutic process tailored for each specific client) and Animal-Assisted Activities (a more general “meet and greet” for anyone wanting to spend a few moments with an animal). This book educates the reader about AAA/T, including how to introduce the possibility of including a dog into an office setting. It provides sample policy and procedure sheets to help clients and staff alike understand the difference between a trained therapeutic dog and someone who simply brings his or her pet to work. Readers are given an overarching understanding of solution-focused therapy, created by Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer. This prepares readers at all levels for the rest of the book, as it discusses working with dogs, creating a successful AAA/T program, and working with different types of client populations. The appendix includes a state-by-state listing of dog training resources.
It is important to note that dogs are referred to as “who” rather than “that,” which furthers the authors’ belief that, in these settings, the dog is as much part of the staff as any human member. This level of equality between dog and trainer continues throughout the book, as instruction is mixed with examples and verbatim conversations of client interactions with a therapy dog, which allows the reader both to learn the logical aspects and to see these plans used practically.
There are verbatim discussions with the clients and other staff, recommendations on how to best choose a dog for therapy training, thoughts by the authors on how they have personally handled difficult situations, and photos of dogs at the start of each chapter that reiterate that the authors speak from experience. This makes for a great learning experience and prevents the reader from feeling overwhelmed or bored by the vast amount of material.
The mix of information, anecdotes, and real life experiences within this book are very inclusive and cover many different situations, ranging from workplace resistance to implementing an AAA/T program to how to best utilize a trained therapy dog when working with substance-abusing clients, children, adolescents, adults, and acknowledging cultural considerations. The final chapter discusses how working with a trained therapy dog affects the dog, the handler, and community relationships. Although no single book turns a novice into an expert, Pichot and Coulter provide a great foundation for those wanting to explore Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy and Animal-Assisted Activities.
Reviewed by Kristen Marie (Kryss) Shane, BS/SWT, MSW II Student, The Ohio State University.