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Treating Childhood Anxiety with Pets

OLV Human Services in Lackawanna brought in therapy dogs to help children open up about mental health during therapy sessions.
Posted at 5:53 PM, Jul 07, 2021

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Therapy dogs have become the newest addition to the OLV Human Services campus, a home for about 40 children in Lackawanna that suffer from a variety of mental, physical, and behavioral challenges.

The four dogs: Sherman, Jonas, Elwood, and Baker, are all owned and provided to the children by CEO of OLV, Cindy Lee.

Lee says that the goal of the animals is to treat anxiety and intense emotions, as well as to help children who may be less inclined to physical touch.

"Anxiety is something that our children suffer with, but all of us suffer with. Our dogs are great at helping the children through it," said Lee.

More specifically, the dogs are used to help children open up and be more vocal during therapy.

"When the dogs are present in a therapy session, they forget the clinician is there .. they are talking to the dog," said Lee.

Kaitlin Incorvia, Clinical Director and Therapist at OLV, believes the science behind this method is strong and rooted in data.

Petting the dogs increases dopamine levels in the brain, as well as relaxing the body and lowering blood pressure, according to Incorvia.

While the methods seen at OLV Human Services have received strong positive feedback, the program has no plans on expansion.

"If I have 5 dogs instead of four here I need a kennel license," joked Lee.