Many of the girls that we work with struggle with social anxiety and developing close relationships with peers and staff, but are uniquely skilled at connecting with animals. Relationships with animals may not involve two-sided heart-to-hearts, but are a great way for girls to learn nonverbal social skills and self-regulation when around others. At Asheville Academy, we offer a wide variety of animal therapies on campus to help teen girls face their anxiety and become more grounded.
Types of Animal Therapy at Asheville Academy:
Equine therapy usually involves grooming, feeding, haltering, and leading horses rather than riding them. During students’ interactions with the horses, our equine-trained specialists observe and interact with students in order to identify behavior patterns and process their thoughts and emotions. Many of the horses have also had histories of attachment issues and can empathize with many of the issues our students are struggling with.
Taking Care of Barn Animals, including Baby Chicks
We help our chicks to regulate and feel safe with us by co-regulating with them. We use many grounding and regulation techniques like deep breathing or positive imagery to help ourselves regulate, and in turn, help our chick to regulate. We hold the chicks against our chest so the chicks are picking up on our heart rate and breathing rhythm. This serves as a fantastic mirror for the girls’ emotions, especially as they have such close contact.
Spending Time with Emotional Support Dogs
Many of our mentor staff and therapists bring their furry friends on campus. The dogs participate in recreation outings off-campus, are trained to pick up on negative emotions, and provide cuddles at the end of a long day. For many of the girls that we work with, having dogs on campus is a reminder of home.
Benefits of Animal Therapy:
- Healthy Relationships. Young girls often have difficulties forming meaningful, healthy relationships. Animal therapy allows girls to learn respect and improve relationships with their family and peers.
- Reducing Stress and Anxiety. Studies show that caring for and working with animals lower stress and anxiety levels a significant amount. It’s a relaxing, nurturing activity that’s not only fun, but beneficial for overall health.
- Gaining Emotional Control. Many animals act as emotional mirrors. They are deeply intuitive to other people’s emotions and give immediate feedback when reading other people’s energy. This gives girls the chance to see and understand natural consequences and allows for self-reflection.
- Communication skills. Caring for and working with animals requires knowledge of the animal and its reactions to certain behaviors. Learning how to interact with animals helps in developing communication skills naturally.
Asheville Academy Can Help
Asheville Academy for Girls is a therapeutic boarding school for girls ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and attachment issues. Many of our students have been bullied in school and struggle with social skills in social groups. We are a relationship-based program that focuses on building meaningful face-to-face connections through teamwork, group therapy, experiential activities, and small classrooms that helps girls heal from the effects of peer pressure.
For more information about how animal therapy helps teen girls with anxiety at Asheville Academy, contact us at 800-264-8709. We can help your family today!
Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy for Girls. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.