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The Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. Court program complements a current counselling program, prepares* the client for court and accompanies the client during the evidence giving process. The goal of our program is to use our highly trained court therapy dogs to reduce or eliminate escalating anxiety in people who are testifying. The Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. Court program works as a cognitive process therapy treatment using our therapy dogs and the client’s psychologist to disassociate anxiety from the client’s thoughts while testifying.
*Prepare meaning: reducing anxiety, embarrassment or perceived harassment, while testifying.
Our court program works with both emotionally and mentally challenged people. Typically the people we work with have irrational uncontrollable automatic thoughts which lead to low self-worth and have “stuck points” when communicating or experiencing life. A stuck point is when the client tries to push a feeling out of their mind but it comes back stronger and paralyses the thought or they cycle through the same thought repeatedly (again they can’t stop). When a client reaches a stuck point, their emotions escalate to a point where their mind shuts down and are unable to communicate reasonably.
Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. Court program works with the client’s psychologist, social worker, family and treatment program to overcome negative automatic thoughts and stuck points. Visitations: we have the client, therapy team or family come to our secure/safe centre located at 374 High Street Penrith or if possible we go to the location of the client.
All dogs are escorted by a dog handler who has been trained to work with court services. The dog handler responsibilities are to bring the dog to agreed location, to make sure the dog's needs are met, to ensure the safety of the dog and if needed to help the client work with the dog. Dog handlers do not counsel clients but we will support the therapist and their team. Our dogs are fully trained. We encourage clients, families and therapist to meet with the therapy dog and handler several times before the court date.
Clients see our dogs as protectors, guardians and as a nonjudgmental friend. When emotions are escalating towards a stuck point the client’s focus can be redirected toward the dog. This can be done when the psychologist or client detects an escalation in emotion. Our dogs will acknowledge a rise in emotions but will not react unless encouraged to do so. Nepean Therapy Dog Court program supports the therapy team, client and family.
Client age 11, possible victim of sexual abuse
Witness Assistance Officer to the courts initialised contact with us. We arranged for the client (victim), their psychologist and the family to visit our Therapy Dog Centre. The client met a wide range of therapy dogs and picked out a few which they liked the best. We met with the client and their psychologist a few more times at various locations with the dogs. The client built a relationship with the dog and was able to overcome stuck points while giving evidence at the court hearing.
Most common dogs in this program are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cavaliers and Poodles. The amount of dogs and breeds vary daily. But once a client has picked a dog we will do our best to ensure they are available during the court process. We do not accept/have dogs that the public perceive as aggressive or dangerous (Staffies, Rottweilers, American Pit Bulls, Japanese Tosas, Argentian and Brazilian fighting dogs). We also have public liability insurance which prevents us from accepting these breeds.
Our dogs are trained as therapy and as emotional support canines. This means they can work with people who are experiencing a stressful event, they will not react to noises, can take commands by anyone who has worked with the dog and will always act in a relaxed nature (they don’t jump on people or interrupt).
Handlers are those people who work with the dog but not necessarily own the dog. But, the handler knows the limits of the dog and knows the dog well. Handlers have spent time undertaking scenario training the dog in public and at our centre. A therapy dog handler has a paid for working with children’s check, national police check and has completed our court training course. Our screening process for this program is intense and not meant for everyone.
Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. does not allow dog handlers to work independently. Clients and sites must be pre-approved by Nepean Therapy Dogs risk assessment team. If you require a therapy dog we ask you to email Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. at email@example.com Attention Court Services or call Nicole Celeban, during business hours on 0427 393 699.
Cost There is no cost for the Nepean Therapy Dogs Inc. court program, it’s a free community service (limited by the number of dogs and handlers). You DO NOT have to donate money to have access to this service. Donating money will not increase your chances of getting the dog you want. Regardless of donation we will try to provide you with the best handler and dog we have for your needs.