Perfect conditions for therapy
by Sophie Rickard | Psychologist, Writer, Author of Mann’s Best Friend
What does therapy do for us? We all have the potential to live a an amazing life with calm grace – it’s just that some of us find that potential further from the surface than others. Everyone we meet is managing something that brings a little bit more challenge to finding it. Therapy is a nurture process that helps the potential reach the light.
There are some important differences between your well-loved pet and the other members of your family. Your pets show unrestrained affection and love you unconditionally. If my teenager greeted me the way my dog does every morning, I would be wondering what he was after. Pets can sense your mood before you have realised yourself, and they are always honest. And that is all we need.
We like to talk about things that bother us and this includes talking to our pets. They are unlikely to reply but it doesn’t stop us. We know we have been heard. I find that people can be too verbal. How does it feel to be presented with solutions, when all you want is a good old moan? The cat can may not understand the finer points of your existential crisis, but he does care. He never says the wrong thing, he allows you to talk, and to hear yourself saying things that might surprise you.
My dog Jessie is with me when I need her. She’s helped me through depression and stuck by my side as I navigate through the bewildering maze of a life with chronic pain and disability. She listens, she distracts, and she physically warms my painful joints with her own body. She even reminds me to have fun sometimes.
Carl Rogers (the father of person-centred counselling) said there are three things we need for therapy: empathy, honesty and love. And that is precisely what your pet offers you every day. How precious and special it is, to find a space in our modern lives where these gifts are always available to us. Rogers grew up on a farm, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he learned his skills from a collie.