Meet Benelli and her pet parent/handler, Katie! As of April, Benelli is an official employee of Heartview and spends two days at the Bismarck facilities as a therapy dog. Benelli is a welcome addition to Heartview and provides many benefits to individuals in substance abuse treatment.
1. Emotional Support and Stress Reduction
Benelli has been a great addition to a safe therapeutic environment for clients. Even clients that aren’t fond of animals tend to gravitate towards Benelli as she can be a calming force for individuals having a difficult time. Therapy dogs possess an innate ability to sense human emotions and provide unconditional love and support. For individuals undergoing substance abuse treatment, the journey can be emotionally taxing. Therapy dogs offer a non-judgmental presence, allowing patients to open up and express their feelings without fear of criticism. The simple act of stroking or cuddling a therapy dog releases oxytocin, a "feel-good" hormone that aids in reducing stress and anxiety. This emotional support plays a crucial role in helping patients manage their emotions during the recovery process.
2. Building Trust and Communication Skills
Many individuals grappling with substance abuse issues have experienced broken trust in their personal relationships. Therapy dogs create a safe environment where patients can rebuild their capacity to trust and connect with another being.
3. Bringing Down Walls and Furthering Treatment Goals
Treatment can be intense and uncomfortable. With Benelli in the room as a distraction, it can be easier for clients to share deep and serious things when the focus of the room isn’t only on them.
Pet parent and handler Katie is a case manager at Heartview. Through close relationships with both clients and the community, she connects patients to additional recovery resources, housing, jobs, and transportation. Katie was trained to handle a therapy dog through the Animal Behavioral Institute.
Benelli has been certified with the Local Love on a Leash Bismarck Chapter for two years and holds a Canine Good Citizen certification. When she’s not working at Heartview she is involved with the local Love on a Leash Chapter visiting Sanford Hospital, Manchester House, Nursing Homes and the Library’s Local BARK program.