Counselor’s advisory brings awareness to support animals


provided by Kelsey Dreskin

Stabler D’Amore was the focus of attention in the lecture hall in November 2019 as part of the school's counseling session that presented information on how pets can help reduce anxiety. A 2016 survey found that 74 percent of people who owned a pet reported an improvement in their mental health.

Abby Wang, Staff Reporter

The ability of animals to assist with anxiety was the focus of Wednesday’s counseling advisory session as Connect to Thrive, presented information to students with the help of their dog, Stabler D’Amore. 

“They came with their therapy dog to talk about therapy in general, and the brain, anxiety, and how animals can help us to become our better selves,” school counselor Staci Stokes said. 

Stokes arranged the visit with Connect to Thrive with the help of her graduate school classmate Kelsey D’Amore, a registered play therapist and EMDR at Connect to Thrive.

“It’s something we had been talking about for a while, and because they love to come into the schools and work with students,” Stokes said. “This session was more mental health related [in comparison to previous sessions] which we haven’t really done a whole lot of until this point, and we plan to do more in the future. Mental health issues are not something new but there as been an increased  awareness of the importance of taking care of your mental health, and having access to counseling is one of the ways that people can do that.”

In a 2016 survey of pet owners, 74 percent of people that owned a pet reported an improvement in their mental health by owning a pet. 

“Holding and stroking a pet is calming for many people, even those without anxiety problems,” Stanford University psychiatry and behavioral science professor Keith Humphreys said on The Dodo. “When we focus attention on taking care of a pet, it helps takes our mind off of our own worries.”

For students that attended the session, they were able to learn more about animal assisted therapy and meet Stabler D’ Amore, the Connect to Thrive support staff poodle.

“After the session and learning more about how animals greatly help anxiety, I definitely want to learn more and possibly pursue a career in counseling. Just the idea that an animal other than a human can significantly change someone’s life is so incredible to me,” junior Kelsey Dreskin said. “My favorite part of the session was definitely getting to pet Stabler. he was such a gentle giant and he even laid on my lap for a few minutes and let me love on him. It was just such a great way to go on with the rest of my day.”