At New Haven, both companion and farm animals are used to help girls build emotional connections and begin to trust others again. Animals are often the first living creatures to form bonds with some of the girls who come to New Haven for healing.
In addition to providing connection, animals can teach us a lot about ourselves and our approach to the world. Horses in particular mirror emotions and give great feedback to humans about their own relationship patterns. Training young and/or nervous animals helps people learn about the elements of building trust and projecting clear, simple communication.
Taking care of animals directly teaches empathy and service to others…especially when taking care of them isn’t convenient. Animals also teach about the importance of assertiveness and consistency in relationships. Here at New Haven, we consider our animals to be partners in the therapeutic healing process and we rely on them to give us valuable information about the girls that may not have seen otherwise. Experiential therapies involving animals can provide a pathway for people to connect with the student through an indirect, less threatening way. It is a unique therapeutic intervention offered at New Haven that can reach people in ways that words cannot.
There is something about the presence of an animal that seems to allow people to become a little more emotionally open than they otherwise might be. Think about it. How much more often people will talk with you when you have a dog with you then when you are alone? Many of the students that come to New Haven have felt connection with animals in ways that they have not yet felt with people. Animals present the opportunity to simply connect with another living being in a raw, simple, and emotionally safe way. They are completely honest, consistent, do not have other agendas in mind, and are masters at living in the moment. They help people to learn how to simply “be” rather than constantly living in their “heads.”