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Therapy dog ​​Lenny in action against depression and anxiety disorder

Most people like dogs. They are considered loyal companions and active playmates. What many do not know: They can also play an important role in the everyday life of a clinic.

For example at the Clinic for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital in Giessen. Physiotherapist Nadine Jänisch is currently training her puppy dog ​​Lenny here. So that they can support patients in the recovery process in the future as part of the so-called animal-assisted therapy. But what can a dog do better than a human?

“Many of our patients feel that they are generally misunderstood by people. And over the years some have also lost confidence that there is someone who wants to listen to them and can help, ”says Nadine Jänisch. A dog can act as an “icebreaker” in such situations. An animal like Lenny can credibly manage to approach people with a completely open mind and let them feel warmth and affection, says the expert.

Lenny is not only a cockapoo (a mix of cocker spaniel and poodle), but also a therapy dog. (Image: private)

People who are treated in the Clinic for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy often suffer from chronic pain when moving, but also from psychological ailments such as depression and anxiety disorders. As is well known, all of these are often reasons for people to withdraw socially, although Corona has made the situation even worse. “Dogs like Lenny can satisfy the special need for closeness to these people very well,” says Nadine Jänisch: “Finally being able to touch someone again is very good for many patients.”

While psychologists take care of mental ailments in the clinic, Nadine Jänisch’s specialty is physiotherapy, which deals with helping people to move as naturally as possible again.

Various studies have shown that animals like Lenny can be helpful on this mission. Some have found out that even touching animals can have a positive effect on the circulatory system and blood pressure, among other things, and may also play a role in reducing fears.

In groups of a maximum of 12 people, Lenny is gradually being integrated into everyday hospital life and has first contact with strangers. The young dog lady is still what Nadine Jänisch calls a “silent observer”, a kind of “trainee”. Until she has successfully completed her training in the disciplines “nose work”, “movement work” and “body work”, it will take around two years of dog training. So similar to humans. Then it should be actively used in the context of yoga and relaxation procedures, for which Nadine Jänisch is an expert.

The clinic in Giessen has already become a second home for the puppy lady. This of course also means that she has private relaxation areas here, where she can really be alone while chilling out.

At the end of her training, Lenny will have become flesh and blood how she must behave in the context of animal-assisted therapy in order to optimally support her boss Nadine Jänisch in her demanding work. It is then in what is known as “flowing use”.

Your expert for animal-assisted therapy:
Nadine Jänisch
Physiotherapist at the Clinic for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital Gießen and Marburg in Gießen

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