Paws right here

Anjana Thampy tells us what it takes to become an Animal Assisted Therapist, and how working in therapy helps us heal ourselves

We may know what it’s like to take the road less travelled. Little do we know what it’s like to take the road never travelled? As a teenager Anjana Thampy knew she wanted to work with animals. But being a vet wasn’t her cup of tea. She wanted to leverage her two strengths — love for animals and love for humans. Hence began Anjana’s long, arduous journey of hopeful, single-handed exploration.

Originally from Kerala, she did her early schooling in north Noida. After Class 12, she decided to go on a date with Psychology for two years. Her first love was her dog who died pretty young but she never hesitated to fall in love again.

When Anjana was 16, a friend of hers mentioned about animal assisted therapy. Quick to act, Anjana trolled pages in Google for online courses. Alas, she found only one in Bombay which offered a summer course for animal therapy. At the same time she serendipitously came across an internship-cum-training opportunity in Colorado, USA. She was quick to ride on the opportunity. After her Skype interview she packed her bags to move half way across the globe for a dream which seemed so impractical at that time.

Shifting base

The decision to move out transformed Anjana. She came back to India driven, equipped and ready to inspire all the other animal-lovers. She currently practises as an animal assisted therapist with her adopted cat in Chennai. An evergreen learner, always willing to go the extra mile— literally and figuratively.

How do you know if you have it in you to be an Animal Assisted therapist? Do you spontaneously wave out to a dog on the streets? Are you quick to notice animals around you? Does your heart go out to an animal on the street?

If the answer is yes, your indelible love for animals can be converted into a profession. And thanks to people like Anjana, you can start right here in India.

An animal assisted therapist is a person who works alongside an animal to help humans achieve certain outcomes. The outcome could be to improve one’s self esteem, forget and forgive the past, improve one’s memory and so on.

“An 8-year-old girl having trouble with verbalisation will be guided to interact with a dog. The motto is to gain the dog’s attention with the right tone and frequency. This will automatically improve her verbal intelligence and she will learn to speak up,” describes Anjana.

Children love rats, rats help best with overcoming challenges on abuse. Goats are stubborn, hence work best to help people with anger issues. Horses and Lamas are highly intelligent and intuitive. Cats love working with soft children.

“Animal Assisted Therapy draws on all the best parts of who we are. Working in therapy with the animals gives us the opportunity to see those parts of ourselves that have gone underground in our best attempts to get through life.

“Through engaging in novel, therapeutic interventions with the animals, we get to re-experience who we are and then make choices about who we want to be going forward. In connecting with animals, humans find their own humanity,” says Anjana’s Mentor, Linda Chassman, PhD., LMFT, CAAP, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado (AATPC).

To be a good animal assisted therapist, a yellow collar career, one needs to know the animal very well. To be on the top of your game everyday, it is vital for you to constantly work on yourself, be creative and be non-judgemental.

The primary skillset is understanding animal and human behaviour, basic counselling and a formal AATC/AAP train is good to get you started off. “I spend five minutes a day just focus on my breathing. I spend two to three hours a day doing what makes me happy. And I always make sure I focus and prioritise my primary outcome for the week,” says Anjana.

Anjana’s vision for India — to bring a full-fledged course in animal therapy in cities like Chennai on a huge property with dogs, horses, goats and many more animals.

The author is CEO, I Love Mondays.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 5:36:27 PM |

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