Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Special Ed Experts on

Special Ed Topics for

Special Ed Parents

Apr 15, 2020

What you need to know about Animal Assisted Play Therapy™! Today we talk with Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT, about what animal play therapy is, how it works, and who should do it. Diane is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Connecticut and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York. She partners with her eight-year-old golden retriever, Shannon, who is AAPT-Approved and a Certified Facility Therapy Dog.

When working with clients in private practice as well as in school districts, Diane incorporates into her practice play therapy and Animal Assisted Play Therapy™. Join us as we discuss what is animal play therapy and it is different from other therapies, tips/warnings for parents interviewing animal play therapists for their child, and tips/tricks for parents now, quarantined at home with students experiencing an unprecedented amount of anxiety.

Diane Dioguardi can be reached via email at “The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?'” ~ Jeremy Bentham

Episode Link:


TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)

dog, child, animal, work, therapy, therapist, training, trained, play, animal assisted, session, telemedicine, talking, client, therapy dogs, people, equine therapy, helps, find, therapy session

Dana Jonson, Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT


Dana Jonson  00:03

Hello, and welcome to need to know a Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS. And I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your school's obligations, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear or comment on, you can find me and this podcast at special ED dot life. You can also find me on Instagram at special ED dot life. Or you can email me, Dana at special ED dot life. Now the first thing you need to know is that sometimes I have a bit of a potty mouth. So if your environment isn't ready for that, feel free to pop in your earbuds. Okay, let's get started. Today we're meeting with Diane de Gordy who is a licensed counselor in both Connecticut and New York. And she's also a registered play therapy counselor. Correct? I say that right? play therapist. Yeah, play therapist. Okay. And today, what we're going to talk about is what I'm most interested about as you're an animal play therapist. Right, right. Animal Assisted play therapy, Animal Assisted play therapy. And I've seen you work with a number of children. And so that's really what I wanted to get into today. What is animal play therapy? What does that mean? And how is it different from other areas? So why don't we start with how did you become an animal play therapist? How did you find yourself here?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  01:55

Well, in my first profession, I am also a licensed veterinary technician. So for a while, for over 20 years, 25 years, I worked in veterinary medicine. So when I went back to graduate school and got my master's in mental health counseling, I decided that I wanted to keep the link, my passion of working with animals kind of alive in this new field also. So I had known about therapy dogs and things like that, but I didn't know how it could relate to the field that I had just become licensed in. So I did some research. And there's a whole field of Animal Assisted play therapy. And there's a woman called Risa VanFleet, who is kind of the psychologist who started the International Association of Animal Assisted play therapy. And I contacted her and she has this whole training where you can become certified as an animal assisted play therapist, and I had to do it backwards a little bit. First, you have to become registered as a play therapist, and get your play therapy certification to do it the way I wanted to do it. There's other ways you can do it if you're not a therapist, and then I went for the certification for Animal Assisted play therapy. So all in all, it took about three years to do everything. And wow.


Dana Jonson  03:20

So quickly, before we get more into the animal component, what is that difference between play therapy and typical therapy? Or? I know, there are a lot of different types of therapies. But I think, you know, we hear the term play therapy as it pertains to children all the time. Right, right. It's not really I'm not clear on it, other than I guess you do that with kids,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  03:42

right. So play therapy is thought of as a modality that you use with children.


Dana Jonson  03:48

So it's like one modality, it's not, it's not the way you work with children, but it's no


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  03:53

work with them one way, you can also use it with adolescents and adults. Okay, it is a playful approach where you're creating an atmosphere that is kind of light and a lot more relaxed. And that helps reduce the person stress decreases resistance when you're dealing just with children play is the language of children. So a lot of people think of play therapists as well. You're just going to have a child in a therapy session and you're going to play with them. It's really that the communication is through the child's play. So the child is telling you what is going on, by the way they're playing. So it's not necessarily that you're playing with them and asking questions


Dana Jonson  04:41

about you're analyzing how they're playing. we're


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  04:44

analyzing how they're playing. So we create a scenario that might be similar to a scenario that maybe one of their caregivers has told us about, or I worked a lot with kids in the foster care system, so it was


Dana Jonson  04:58

okay, too much Children are adopted through foster care.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  05:01

Okay, so it was very helpful to break down the resistance, you know, and build the trust. So it's not necessarily just playing with children the play is their communication. And the play therapy allows them to communicate to you in a non threatening way. Because they relax is really good for building relationships, teaching a child how to be trusting and flexible, helping them to be able to maybe tackle problems that they wouldn't be able to talk about just sitting talking to you. Yeah, well, there's all kinds of strategies you can use, there's all kinds of techniques, I work more with a directive style of play therapy, which is I create a scenario, there's a child centered play therapy, where the child kind of creates what's going on, they just come into the playroom, and they start to play. And then you go on their lead, when I'm working with the dogs that I work with, they're more in tune to a directive style. So I use a more directive style where I kind of set up a scenario and say, This is what we're going to do today. And then the child starts playing, and I engaged with them.


Dana Jonson  06:15

I know that when to my daughters, who we adopted through foster care came to live with us, we had a therapist who used to come to the house and work with all of them. And a lot of times how he would do that would be through playing games. And it was interesting, because you know, at first I was like, Are they just playing uno all the time, like, I don't understand what the difference is. But then he would come talk to me, and he had these really insightful things to say about all of my children. So I get thing I was like, Well, I guess it's working. But I hadn't really thought about that. But so it's not necessarily that you have to use it with children, it's you can use it with older people


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  06:49

you don't I mean, the traditionally, a traditional play therapist will tell you it's for children, range of 12 and younger, three to 12 is what you learned in school, but I am most play therapists, we branch out and you can use different variations of it for adolescents, a lot of the adolescents that I work with, chronologically, they may be a certain age, but their maturity level is a lot younger, or so a lot of the play therapy techniques really speak to them. And then even with adults to break the resistance, some adult just sitting on the couch and chatting back and forth is not really what they can do, you bring a sand tray out, you bring some miniatures out, and it really opens up a different communication style that speaks to them. So


Dana Jonson  07:42

so it helps them drop their guard we've done is that


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  07:47

the resistance usually drops very quickly. And then you can if they're not resistant, if they can relax and they start to trust you, then the the more heavier issues that might really be bothering them, they just kind of organically begin to come out because they're not guarded anymore.


Dana Jonson  08:07

Got it. That's amazing. So now how does the play therapy then translate into the Animal Assisted play therapy.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  08:15

So Animal Assisted play therapy is a combination of animal assisted therapy, it's kind of a marriage of animal assisted therapy and play therapy. And you take components of both of them, and we meshed it together. And that's where Animal Assisted play therapy came out. So that is why before you really can become an animal assisted play therapy, it's best to have the foundation in play therapy, because a lot of it is based on the play therapy foundation. So


Dana Jonson  08:45

you could be an animal play therapist, but not a regular therapist


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  08:51

is that yeah, you wouldn't be called an animal assisted play therapist. Okay, there are different titles so you can get trained in Animal Assisted play interventions Animal Assisted, so though use different kinds of with it, but you wouldn't be fully certified. But there are some teachers, some therapists that like physical therapists or occupational therapists who are still are being trained in this modality, but they wouldn't necessarily be certified as a therapist. They will have certification in Animal Assisted interventions or something like


Dana Jonson  09:27

okay, so it wouldn't be it wouldn't say therapist if they weren't a licensed therapists. Exactly. There may be other ways to utilize the animal play components, but if they're not, okay, I understand and I just want to make sure because I think you know, I think in there are a lot of terms and we're not going to get into them because I know there are vast differences with how animals are can be used successfully. And there are


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  09:52

most of it comes whenever therapy is used with an animal, whether it be animal assisted therapy or not. Most just play therapy, the big difference is when it's a therapy, it's usually a trained person. And in this case, we're trained animal working together to help somebody else. Okay, so So when a dog is just trained to help somebody as, say, an assistance dog, that dog is trained to help somebody with a disability, there's not a third person in there. But when it's a therapy, you have a therapist, you have a trained therapist, you have a trained dog, and that team is working to help somebody.


Dana Jonson  10:33

So that was me. My question was, you need to be a therapist, and you need to go through all of your schooling and practicums and all that to become a therapist, then you go through the training to become an animal play therapist, what does the animal have to do? Does the animal have to be trained?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  10:47

Absolutely, yeah. So it's actually quite intensive part of it is innate biological, genetic makeup of the animal where the animal has to have a certain temperament to be able to even be a dog or a horse, or there are a couple of different species, dogs and horses are what I'm trained in. But there, you can do cats, and some, some of the smaller pocket pets can be done. But if the temperament and what we call the goodness of fit isn't there, if the animal doesn't have the right temperament for this type of work, then it's not fair to the animal to subject them to this type of work, because it probably would increase their stress level.


Dana Jonson  11:33

So it's not something you can take any animal and we can just say, Okay, this, this, here's this puppy, and we're definitely going to make that our animal, right? You're looking for something to start with, right? You're right. So you can make


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  11:43

you can take the puppy who you think would be a good animal system, play therapy dogs, I did that with my two year old lab that I have now. And there are certain breeds that tend to be more inclined to different parts of Animal Assisted play therapy. Just because a dog might be really active doesn't mean doesn't rule them out, it just might rule them out for certain parts of animals is to play therapy.


Dana Jonson  12:09

Got it? So I hear mostly with my students or clients who are students, I usually hear more about the dog and the horse. And what's what's the term for the horse therapy? Because I don't want to get it wrong. Isn't there a term for that? Specifically,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  12:22

there's a couple of different I mean, a gala is a big one here, which is different types of the horse, the equine therapy, yes, equine therapy, that's what I write some of it, some of it's when the client will actually ride the horse. And that is part of the therapy component. And some of it, the client never gets on top of the horse, it's more relationship building. Yeah, and that is the animal system play therapy component with a horse, the person doesn't get on top of the horse, relationship building, and you're using the horse in the same way you would a dog in the session, it's just outside or in a barn and or what you're doing is similar, but different because the animals bigger.


Dana Jonson  13:11

Well, and I think it's really important to understand these components, because I know that when I started practicing, as an attorney in Connecticut 15 years ago, and I had a client who was engaged or whose child was engaged in equine therapy, and they really wanted it, but it was still considered kind of unheard of it was kind of considered not real. And now it's, it's well respected. And I well, most places, it's well respected. It should be and we have the science behind it and all of that. So, you know, it's it's interesting to, to hear all these components, because I think it's very easy to say, oh, equine therapy, they just want to ride horses, but that's really not at all what it is, right? You're using that animal in that relationship, and that


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  13:52

component of the relationship and trust and a lot of people, it's even used in adults who might have attachment issues and issues with having trouble mastering things and their self confidence and their self esteem. When you can learn to work with an animal, whether it be a dog or a horse, and the animal just has this unconditional response to you that isn't judgmental at all, it really helps to boost your self worth and that can help you with all the other issues that you're dealing with.


Dana Jonson  14:24

Certainly, I mean, kids have to feel safe or anybody has to feel safe and secure in order to be vulnerable enough for any kind of therapy to be successful.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  14:34

Yeah. And then you work towards gaining mastery and whatever you're working at and then the sense of self satisfaction that you get from that really, you see the growth just really it can expand to all different types of areas in your life. So


Dana Jonson  14:50

yeah, definitely. And I mean when I you know, when I first learned of this and had every client I've had who's who's used it and not a ton, but everyone I have I've seen the progress that their students make. And


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  15:04

yeah, you know, even with frustration, tolerance is huge, especially with, you know, a younger child who is on


Dana Jonson  15:12

the spectrum I have a lot, you know, most of those students that I'm talking about, we're students on the spectrum. And as you said, the frustration levels and the ability to practice all of that with an animal makes such a difference.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  15:25

I've had a lot of students on the spectrum who communication, just talking to an adult is really hard. But if you turn the session to the focus of you're not talking to me, as a therapist, they're making eye contact with the dog, and they're learning how to communicate to the dog, everything they're doing with the dog then will relate to their social skills with the adults in their life. So it's


Dana Jonson  15:48

taking those skills down to an even a much more safe or secure space. Right? Yeah, you're saying the animal is going to respond to them, non judgmentally, they don't have to worry about it. If you play with the dog, it will play back with you. So,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  16:03

you know, play back with you. And these dogs are trained to, first you're training the dog as the therapist. So you're working toward


Dana Jonson  16:11

the Yeah, so what was so tell us about that, tell me what the what the training process is for the actual animal for the dog, right. So primarily with the dogs,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  16:20

first, you get trained in Animal Assisted play therapy as the therapist, right, you learn what it's about, you work with dogs, a lot of its online training in the beginning. And then you know, you have to write papers and be able to learn the history behind


Dana Jonson  16:39

all the things that come with any kind of training or degree. Very, very fun stuff,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  16:45

there's been a lot of research to prove the benefits of it, it's


Dana Jonson  16:48

sure that no, that's what I love is it that we now have the science when I when I was starting to advocate for this, we didn't have the science behind it. And now we planned it.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  16:57

And now we have the science. And then what you do is most people have a dog that they would like to become their animal assisted play therapy dogs. So you start training this dog, but in your training before you've learned about body language, animal communication, signs, basically to pick up stressing the dog, basically, to pick up what the dog is communicating to you during the session, the use of that expert,


Dana Jonson  17:23

and not just the child, but also the animal


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  17:27

back. So you have to be able to split your attention is, is yeah, we call. So in a session, you're paying attention to what the your client is doing. But you're also paying attention to the signals that the dog is giving you. So if they're giving you stress signals, or if they're giving you that they're uncomfortable with something, or that they're eager to join in, and you haven't asked them to join in yet, you know, you just pick up on their body language, a lot of the dogs that I work with are trained in hand signals. So you know, if I need them to do something, and I'm talking to the client, I can just give the dog as pan signal to either lay down or come to me or pick something up. And they can do that at the same time. So I can actually communicate to both.


Dana Jonson  18:14

So they don't need the verbal, you just make you know, a lot of


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  18:17

younger dogs do under training one dog now. And the way you do it is you start with verbal and hand signals, and you slowly back off from the verbal and they'll usually respond to the hand signals. But I guess the first most important thing is the relationship between you and the dog. So you're building that relationship really solid obedience skills are important. So the sweetest dog in the world can have the potential to become a really good animal assisted play therapy dog because they have a really nice temperament and they're very social. But if if they aren't able to be managed with basic obedience skills, sit, stay calm, things like that, then it would be really hard to split your attention during a session because you know, you would have to manage the dog spend too much time managing the dog, and then you wouldn't be able to pay attention to the client's need


Dana Jonson  19:15

well, and I would imagine that no matter how much you know about the child, or how much you know about therapy, or animal play therapy, if you personally are not good at training a dog, which is a completely different skill set. As I'm learning, we just got a puppy. So I'm learning that skill set myself. It's a completely different skill set than what you think and you can be great at other things but not training a dog. So


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  19:41

a great point and see for me because of my first profession. I also showed dogs for a while when I was younger. So I had a very good foundation in canine communication and training but for a lot of people who go into this maybe They've never trained a dog before. So that's the biggest barrier. And that takes some time then to learn how to train the dog and learn how to work with the dog and communicate with the dog, and what is the dog telling me just with his body language and stuff? So then you have to have a dog that enjoys it, because enjoy what they're doing, then then they shouldn't be asked to do it. Yeah,


Dana Jonson  20:26

no, I just had to laugh. Because I, you know, I could imagine, you could have a very well trained dog who will follow your orders, but not be engaging in a in a productive manner, right.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  20:37

So some dogs get bored very easily, you know, a lot of what you're asking them to do in an animal assisted play therapy session might be repetition, you may be asking the child to do it over and over to help them maybe they're working on communication skills, or self esteem. And, and so you want to build mastery and to build mastery, you're doing things over and over again. So lots of repetition. But if a dog though, then says, Nope, I don't want to do that anymore. You don't want a robotic perfect dog. Because in the moment, when things happen, that's always the most organic way for everyone to learn. So if I, if I ask my dog Shannon to do something, and she doesn't do it, well, then the child and I then can turn that into a discussion about, Oh, do you know anyone else who sometimes doesn't want to do what they're told, you know, and, and so it can really branch into their life and to and


Dana Jonson  21:35

I can imagine, that's the case on anything. I mean, I think of my own experiences with with therapy, going into a session and thinking this is exactly what I need to talk about, and I'm ready to go. And somehow we end up somewhere completely different. Because that was just, I, you know, I didn't know what I needed to be doing. Or, you know, the session or the vibe, or the field just goes in a different direction. And so yeah, that makes sense that that would happen with children and animals, too.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  22:02

Yeah. And then we might say, so what do you think she's feeling right now about the dog? Why do you think she doesn't want to and then just helping them show empathy towards another creature, whether it be a dog or a person, it builds that skill set in them. And you know, a lot of times children have trouble understanding others feelings and paying attention to that. So then once the dog kind of once you've determined, well, this dog has a good foundation, then you go to the level two training and the level two training is when you go and it's usually a week long hands on training that you go to where Risa VanFleet has her training, which is all over the world. You know, I found I went to her trainings, always in Pennsylvania, but she partnered with someone in over in England. She's done Australia. She's all over the place. She's the go to for she used to go to Yeah.


Dana Jonson  22:59

And what was her name again? Can


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  23:00

you say that again? Um, Risa Van Fleet. So she's ologists.


Dana Jonson  23:05

And I'll put that in the show notes. I put everything we talked about in the show notes. So if anyone wants to go back and find that they can,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  23:11

yeah, it's her first name is it's a very unique first name, but it's spelt R I S, E, and then Van Fleet. And she is a psychologist who is also a play therapist. And She now runs the International Institute of Animal Assisted play therapy. So wow, that's who does this, the worldwide certification for it, and there's a website and anyone who's been certified is listed on that website. Oh, great. So then the dogs become trained. And she watches you do the hands on with the dogs and give, you know, you get pointers, and you really, it's a very intensive training. But then what happens is, then you have to do a certain number of hours of supervision. So a lot of it's done through, you know, computer supervision, but you have to do a case


Dana Jonson  24:08

everything is done through computer supervision right now, that may have been a foreign concept at one point, but right now


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  24:16

you have to send videos back of the dog working and really the dog has to be found to be sound not perfect. We're not looking for perfection. It's okay if the dog you know, doesn't listen, the first time were things like that, but it's a sound temperament where the dog can be as close to being 100% predictable as possible, right, but it's still an animal. So animals sometimes there's no 100% When it comes to vape and most people you know anything with a heartbeat. So, you know, there's a code of ethics that you follow that you try and make it so that you minimize the chance of anything unpredictable happening it when you work with your clients, it's you're always very upfront about, there'll be a dog in Session. And, you know, here's the positives to having a dog. But here's also, you know, you go over the pros and the cons. And you know that a lot of people ask about allergies and things like that.


Dana Jonson  25:21

Yeah, I love hearing all this because it is so intensive. And there is so much training and supervision that goes on, both for the therapist and the animal. And I do think there's a misconception, that animal play therapy animal, that you're just having an animal in the room, or you're just having them in the session, or it's it's just play, but it's it's really a science, and it's is.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  25:46

You know, there's a lot of therapists who bring their dogs to work, right. And sure, so their dogs might be at the therapy session, and they're probably very beneficial to for the clients that they see. But that's different than what I do with my wife, my dogs. I love having animals around all the time. But yeah, it's it's different. And when people hear of animal therapy, they really think a lot of kind of the dogs that go to the hospitals and volunteer. Yes, and yes. And I find that training too. So


Dana Jonson  26:21

sure. And there's other training for that. But and I think that's a good distinction, too. And I think also, there are lots of, you know, when you talk about whether it's something like an emotional support animal that's completely separate, that's a completely different thing. When you're talking about, as you said, the therapy animals who go into nursing, assisted living in nursing homes, thank you, your nursing homes, or airports or, you know, things like that there's a training for that. But those aren't actual play therapy certified dogs?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  26:49

No, no, there's all different levels. And there's, there's a lot of different hats that come with the therapy term, as


Dana Jonson  26:56

far as I'm sure there's a ton of overlap, there's a


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  26:59

lot of overlap, there's a lot of overlap. I mean, all of my dogs are also Pet Partners certified. So pet partner, partner, pet, so Pet Partners, it's an agency who are truly a nonprofit, that that those are the dogs that get certified as volunteer therapy dogs. So they they're going to libraries to read with kids, they're going into nursing homes. So you know, on Sundays, my lab and I go to a nursing home where we were until right now, but but we go to a nursing home and visit. So those type of therapy dogs are totally, it's on a volunteer basis, and you and your dog have gone through training, and you're there to support the emotional needs of others. In just your dog's presence is doing it, you know, just by your dog being by this, seeing the dog by them petting the dog, it's not goal driven. There's no treatment plan, you know, all the children that I work with in therapy, there's a treatment plan that speaks to okay, what are the needs of the child? And how can working with the dog help benefit those needs. So the treatment plan written with objectives and goals and, and so that it's much different than


Dana Jonson  28:19

during those? Yeah, and you're and you're measuring outcomes, and you're measuring


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  28:23

outcomes and things like that, when you're when you're volunteering, you're you're going to brighten up somebody's day, provide support, provide some level of enjoyment to help somebody that way. And, you know, but there's no, it's not necessarily goal driven.


Dana Jonson  28:42

Right. Well, I mean, there is there is a benefit to I mean, even just now and they talked about it's there's a benefit to being outside, right that if you put a plant on your desk, it actually their physical benefits to it because you're spraying some form of nature, right. And that, you know, I remember once hearing that fish tanks are recommended to heart attack victims because watching a fish tank helps calm you


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  29:03

calm and get out petting. petting a dog does the same thing. It helps. It helps to calm you. It really helps to relax you the endorphins that you get from it. It's wonderful to be able to volunteer, and yeah, with your pet. And you know, those dogs also, like if it's through Pet Partners every two years that dogs need to get recertified. It's about temperament. It's about making sure that the dogs can handle an unpredictable environment. You know, as


Dana Jonson  29:32

you said that they want to do it too, you know, I present it they don't they may present as not being very well trained.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  29:39

Exactly, exactly. You don't want them to be shy or timid. You know, there are a lot of like with people who dogs who don't like to socially interact, you know, they're more or introverted and they're fine at home and they're great with their family, but you bring them out into the community, and they become a little more reserved. little more timid, that might not necessarily be the type of dog who would want to go into a hospital setting where, you know, there's a lot going on, or you want to be able to determine predictability to the best that you can.


Dana Jonson  30:16

So what a parents look for, I mean, if they're looking for play therapy and, and as you said, I mean, I've seen amazing results from that animal play therapy with children on the spectrum and developing empathy. And, and as you said, working on some of those social skills, actually, I've seen tremendous progress when they're starting with an animal. As you said, that's not the ultimate goal, the ultimate goal is to then generalize that skill. But for children who aren't grasping it through the human interaction, or, you know, a lot of social skills are taught through pictures, and some kids just don't grasp that. So to be able to have that in person and with an animal that's going to respond in a way that will be beneficial to the child so that they can work on those pieces. So if parents are looking for animal play therapists, and again, because I think that it's critical to understand that an animal play therapy dog is different than many other terms, you know, as you said it, animal play intervention, or, you know, there are other there are service dogs, there's motional, support things, there's, you know, they're all different pieces. So, when a parent is looking, they want to make sure that their therapist didn't just happen to bring the dog to work that day. So what can parents do to ask and, and to interview their therapist and know it's the right fit for their child?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  31:36

That's a great question. A lot of therapists will say that they do play therapy, a lot of therapists will say they have a therapy dog. And it's really asking about the training about the training for the therapist, but also the training for the dog and, you know, kind of asking specific questions in regard to types of what a session would look like that that's always really good. So


Dana Jonson  32:01

what session look like,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  32:03

it depends on what age child you're looking for, right? But if someone is saying, well, the dog will be there, and the child can pet the dog, and it'll help the child relax, and it's very vague and not specific, then I would, you know, dig a little deeper and see, but you can ask specifics, like, okay, my child has anxiety, how could working with your dog help my child with anxiety, you know, and in my case, I'd be able to let them know specifics, such as we're going to work on self esteem, we're going to work on letting your child first get to meet the dog. Now, a play therapist who's been trained knows that when a new child comes, or a new client comes, even if it's an adult, the dog shouldn't be there in the first session, you should be talking about the dog, maybe showing a picture of the dog and then actually teach the client, the right way to interact with the dog. So you know, giving those big bear hugs to the dogs and things like that on a dog that you don't know that could be dangerous. So you don't you want to teach the client from the beginning, proper ways to greet a dog. So this way, they can take that out into the community, too. You know, and a child shouldn't think that they can just go up and hug any dog.


Dana Jonson  33:27

No, I haven't I have a child like that. My I've never been able to keep my son away from a dog ever. And thank God, we haven't had an issue with it. But I've literally never I mean, that was half his childhood was we have to stop and ask, you have to stop.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  33:41

So that's what we do first, you know, before that, so, you know, that's always a good sign that Oh, wow, this therapist, she really cares and teach the child right? And then you break down? How can you know, we were talking about the example of anxiety. So how can the dog help with anxiety, it would be things like, we're going to help build self esteem, say it's social anxiety in social situations. So the child will be involved in maybe training the dog to learn new skills to help build her self esteem and self confidence. And then maybe we're going to have the child work with the dog to create some type of a skit or scenario or training routine that they've trained, and then they can actually present it to the parents and show them what they've used and help them with verbal cues and things. So it should be something in depth like that, not just, you know, while the dog will be here, and she gets nervous, she could pet the dog, you know, right? There's always a


Dana Jonson  34:46

specific goals and objectives. And this is what we're going to do to achieve them and this is how we're going to measure them. So like the example you said, if you're using the animal to create a skit, then you know that that outcome is the skit, right? So it's not just about do you want to play with the animal? And do you want to do a skit with them, you're, you're hearing something measured and


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  35:08

got it. And the key is that it's playful. And if it's okay, and the environment is relaxed type of environment, most of the time, humans will, their guard will come down, and they'll be able to grow more, absorb more, learn more, and be able to work on really tough, they'll let that tougher things come up, and not be afraid to approach them, because the environment has become supportive and trusting and relaxed. And so it takes time. Yeah, it takes time. And like with any other type of therapy, there's, there's an assessment stage, and then engagement stage, and then your middle stage where you do a lot of the work. And then you work towards either termination or, or when you finish one issue, if there's multiple issues, that maybe something else after that. But yeah, for to get back to. That was a long answer. Back to what we were talking about, was, you know, just ask questions, kind of definitely not just take for, you know, what they're saying that I'm a play therapist, and, you know, I have a therapy dogs,


Dana Jonson  36:24

right. So you're looking for really the training, certification


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  36:29

training and certification, yes,


Dana Jonson  36:31

specifics, that they have specific strategies in which they use the animals with the child that that the goals and objectives are measurable, that you haven't asked me or


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  36:42

definitely ask you about the dog training and what the dog has, has done. You know, there are some dogs who are certified to Pet Partners, and they they've been trained as therapy dogs, so they can be in the session. You also want to ask about liability if they have a special coverage for the dog or, you know, I mean, thought of that, of course, like that. So, you know, when we're in the session, you know, a lot of the liability coverage that you have covers working with the dog in the session, but you want to make sure that they have some type of coverage. So for


Dana Jonson  37:20

training, like specifics coverage for insurance, because if they don't have that, then that probably means it's not a proper therapy, right?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  37:30

Well, not necessarily, but it just means that they don't value the importance of that. You know, the therapy don't still have the training, but the importance of that is important, but


Dana Jonson  37:42

they need to that you would recommend somebody who had who takes that as a priority.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  37:46

Want to take it serious takes it seriously. Yeah, yeah, no.


Dana Jonson  37:51

So are you able to work with clients now? I mean, we're in the middle of the COVID closures right now. COVID-19 closures? Are you able to work with clients now? And if at all, are you able to incorporate the animals? I know you're doing virtual telehealth.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  38:06

So we're doing virtual, it's been a learning curve. But more and more everybody, every session that because I wasn't trained before in telemedicine, right. So we all had to,


Dana Jonson  38:20

is that a separate training? I don't want to get too far into it. But I'm just curious, is there a separate training for that because now that we're all hearing telehealth, this video health that


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  38:28

most insurance companies wanted you to have at least some knowledge of telemedicine and it's more about the confidentiality that comes along with telemedicine. And of course, there was all this talk about if you're licensed in one state, like I'm licensed in Connecticut in New York, so I could practice in both those states. But with telemedicine, if you're you can be sued. I can be sitting here in Connecticut and working with someone in California. Do I have to be licensed in California, you know, so there was all that discussion that's still out there. But right now, during you know, COVID-19 the most insurance companies have waived any of that type of necessity and they're saying that you can practice telemedicine you you had to go on and be able to work off of either I work on doc see me or the professional level of zoom, so that they're HIPAA compliant, you had to use different types of platforms that were HIPAA compliant. And so I didn't necessarily go through the training. So whether I'll continue telemedicine, I probably will. But I'll probably insurance companies will probably say well, you have to take this workshop to be able to continue doing right I


Dana Jonson  39:43

think a lot of them have relaxed those rules for right now. Are those they have right now without compromising the services. They're relaxing them but you're right. I think we'll get back to


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  39:52

it but you'd have to use like I can't right now. I'm not using like FaceTime or something. Sure.


Dana Jonson  39:58

No, yeah, you have to use is a proper platform but but you are able to work with students,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  40:03

I'm working with students and I am using the dogs a little bit. So what we're doing is more, either the dog will come into my lap, and we'll do some type of feeling activity with the dog in my lap. Or I'll make it so that the child can tell me what they want the dog to do. And I'll face the screen so they can see the dog. And I won't move the dog until the child tells me the next thing to do with the dog. So this way that


Dana Jonson  40:32

it's helping them they're still involved, even though they're not involved, and they still have


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  40:37

control, they have control over what the dog is doing, because I'm being their hands, and their mouth, ear, but they're still controlling it. So that's a lot of what happens in a in an animal. a therapy session is the the child feels like they're in control because the dog is listening to them, or they're comforting the dog or they're so if they want me to, I might say to them, what do you think Dakota needs now? And they might say, well, he looks a little sad. Maybe Maybe you should pay them more? Where should I pay them? You know, it's this whole learning curve now, but I'm trying to do it because any type of telemedicine with a child even up through middle school, even the high schoolers, it's really hard to have a full session. Yeah, where computer with a child. So we we've been getting creative with the therapists that work with children.


Dana Jonson  41:34

Or I think everybody's getting creative


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  41:37

and having some type of hands on even if it's not really hands on. It's sure. It's virtually hands on.


Dana Jonson  41:46

Sure. Well, hopefully we will soon be back. Well, I don't know if it'll be soon. But I look forward to when we get back to being able to do animal play therapy in person. Yeah, it'll be wonderful. And I know that kids are home now. And there's a lot of anxiety from everybody. Parents, kid. Yeah, just every one. It's a very stressful time. And there's a huge spike in animal rescues. I think people realize they're home and they want to take care of a puppy. I guess that's what we decided. I don't know if it's the right decision or not, but it's something we're doing to


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  42:20

what can be a good time to potty train. Sure, exactly.


Dana Jonson  42:24

It's a good time to potty train when we're all here in the house. But what kind of tips or tricks or or anything can you give to parents about whether they're looking for animals or if their child is stressed and need some releases? Are there any thoughts that you can give,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  42:39

you know, we'll start with if they're looking for an animal, I guess just look at it through not a narrow lens, you know, really look at it with a broad lens of listing the pros and cons of why you want the pet and and also realize what you know, whether it's a dog or a cat or what it might be that it's for the long haul, right? So we I firmly believe Coronavirus and COVID-19 aren't going to be around forever. And hopefully, in the near future, we'll be able to, you know, relax the social distancing, you know, maybe by the summer time or something, but this puppy or this dog that you've got there, apparently to still be there, when your life gets back to the normal again, when you're not home all the time. So just take into consideration what that's going to look like also and how this pet is going to fit into life when it gets back to some type of normalcy. And


Dana Jonson  43:38

that's so important. And I think also, if you're saying, you know, look at why you're getting them, if you're getting a dog as any form of emotional support, you have to remember that if that dog isn't properly trained, or they could grow up and not be, they might not bond with the child, those things can happen. So if that's your sole reason, you need to think about what what are you going to do if that doesn't come to fruition?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  44:03

Absolutely. And you know, you might be home working from home like I am right now, but, you know, definitely take into consideration, okay, what's it gonna look like when I go back to work? What's that going to look like? And am I going to have the time commitment that necessary? You know, if, if you were very social person, you know, now we're home now and it's nice to have the dog, a new dog with us now, and make sure everyone in the family is okay with it. If it's if you're part of a family.


Dana Jonson  44:32

Yeah, that's a good point, too. There are people in the house who aren't interested that could impact the ability to train the dog or the the ability for the dog to bond.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  44:41

And yeah, absolutely. And, you know, if they're clear that well, we could get a dog but I'm not going to have anything to do with it, then you know, that that this is going to be your responsibility. Whoever loves the dog and yes, but you know, I think it's I think it's great that the adoptions that are happening I do just caution people I've been asked a lot because of what I used to do in veterinary medicine, I was involved in a lot of rescues. But just make sure you want to be the forever home, right?


Dana Jonson  45:09

You want this not a short term experiment. Exactly


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  45:13

that you wanted to be part of your family and to help, you know, make your family


Dana Jonson  45:18

right and, and just because you think you're going back to work doesn't mean that you can't get a puppy to actually have a plan. That's all just got


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  45:24

prepared. And exactly, you just need to have a plan for now. And that was great. Yeah, to have one home, but in just have your backup plan for when this when this ends,


Dana Jonson  45:36

that's when this ends. Yeah. And what about for parents who are looking for tips or tricks to work with their children or themselves? For example? Yeah, what released some of the things xiety? I mean, we're in a global pandemic.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  45:50

Well, yeah, and what you said just now for themselves, I think it's so important for parents to take care of themselves, right? Yes, it's okay to say, Okay, what do I need? Right now, in the moment? What do I need to de stress? Try not to get fixated on the news and what's happening? You know, I think it's normal to want to check in what's going on. But try not to have it consumed so much of your time that then you forget that you have a need, and that you deserve to pull yourself away from it for a little bit and live in the moment. Right.


Dana Jonson  46:29

Yeah. And I think there's a misconception that people believe that in order to be well informed, they need to be listening 24/7. And that isn't the case. And I recommend this as my plug for a streaming channel called newsy. And they are not paying me for this at all. But newsy is a streaming channel, and they genuinely have no opinion, no commentary, they simply deliver the news. And that's it. And I always recommend that to people. Because if you can listen to the news, out all that commentary, you're still getting the information, you're able to form your own opinions. And I've been able to watch the news without, you know, having a heart attack or, you know, a panic attack. And,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  47:08

and a lot of it's repeated over and over again. And if you get into if you're if you're absorbing that as your mantra for the day, it's very hard to keep your anxiety at a manageable level. It's very hard to not feel sad and afraid. Yes. So it's okay. To you want to validate that, yeah, this is what's happening, right? You, you don't want to ignore it. But you also don't have to live it, you can hear it without fully absorbing it and really find the time and a routine a routine is really important, whether it's for you or your child. I think starting with a routine, I'm a big one on putting it down on paper or on the computer, something you can concretely see. Because it it really helps to guide you, especially when you're feeling anxious. It really remind you of Oh, yeah, I can do that right now.


Dana Jonson  48:07

Yeah. And I mean, we've done that to hear me, we find that it helps the kids too, because they need to, it helps us and the kids. Sure, you know, I'm saying the same thing. You are to parents, too. I'm like, cut yourself some slack. Yeah, yeah, even for five minutes a day, you need to be the priority at some point?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  48:25

Absolutely. You need to be kind to yourself, in order for you to have the energy to be a caregiver, you need to first give yourself that really important energy and intentional self care. Yeah, absolutely. You know, kids are going to have worries, they're going to have fears. And you you don't want to shush to those right, you want it to definitely reassure them that that right now their home, that they're safe, kind of teach them how to be mindful, to live in the moment and be able to not get too far ahead with your thoughts. Because then especially with kids, there'll be more what if this happens, and what if that happens, and that really spikes their anxiety level. You want to let them talk about their worries and their fears, but then also have these coping skills and these strategies in place that helps them learn how to relax, right, learn how to be able to take care of themselves. So that being anxious happens, but you can control it when you know something's going to be anxious. So, you know, even little children, you can teach how to take deep breaths and be able to distract their mind.


Dana Jonson  49:37

So give them like a replacement behavior. So yeah,


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  49:41

exactly. And there's there's some really great links online for all types of mindfulness activities with toddlers with school aged children with adolescents and you just build on it. I mean, even with adolescents if you get them some bubbles, All right, let's childish, but they love to play with them, and teach them really how to do deep breathing with it a couple of minutes with the bubbles, and they've distracted their mind number one. And number two, they're really enriching their body with with the oxygen that they need. Because when we're anxious, we hold our breath. And our anxiety just goes up. So it's really great. And, but it's important to stick to routines and help your children stick to a routine, whether it's the virtual school work right now, making their day predictable is important routines and schedules, you know, trying to follow a normal bedtime, trying to stick to what you would have been doing before we had to do the social distancing. It's, it's it's so important. And I think an important thing to this just came up in one of my sessions this week with a child where they said to me, and the parent didn't realize it, but the child kept hearing the news beyond, even though they thought that that child was playing. So the child hearing everything, and the child was getting very anxious, because he really, he really, he was only in like, third or fourth grade, he really didn't understand even what the news was saying. Except he just kept hearing things like the death toll and things right that


Dana Jonson  51:24

so they weren't even getting the full context. There were daddy pieces that are even


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  51:29

very scary. So realize right now that we're all under the same roof, we're in closer quarters than we were, and just be mindful of the environment that's been created in the house.


Dana Jonson  51:42

Sure. Great. Well, thank you so much, Diane, this was so cool. I loved I learned a lot of new stuff, which is great. And I'm really excited to have this episode to help parents understand a little bit more about animal play therapy.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  51:58

Thank you for having me.


Dana Jonson  51:59

How would people get in touch with you? If they want to find you? How do they find you? So Diane is in private practice in Connecticut and also works with school districts? So if you're in Connecticut, and you're looking for an animal play therapist, where would they go to find you?


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  52:12

They can always email me. So you know, Diane, do will bring me right to my private practice, always an email is usually the best.


Dana Jonson  52:24

Well, and I will put that information in the show notes. If anyone's got a car and they can't write it down. I will have Diane's contact information in my show notes. So you can just go look those up.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  52:35

Yeah, just give me an email. And I would love to talk to any parents who who would like to speak to me.


Dana Jonson  52:41

Great. Well, thank you so much. Have a great I guess we're actually I don't know when this will publish. But right now we're on a weekend. So have a great weekend.


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT  52:50

Yeah, thank you you to be safe, everyone. You too. Bye.


Dana Jonson  52:55

Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications whenever new episodes are available. You can also find this podcast on his website at special ED dot life. You can follow me on Instagram at special ED dot life or you can email me at Dana at special ED dot life. I want to know what you want to know. So please reach out with your comments and questions. And I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson Have a great day