Dogs To Play Lead Role In New University Student Wellbeing Project
This sounds great!
In a move that it is hoped will help boost the mental health of students, a new wellbeing programme at The University of Edinburgh is going to have dogs at its heart.
The University - one of the largest in Scotland - has launched its Paws on Campus programme, which has been designed to provide a new style of support for students suffering from conditions including stress and anxiety.
Combining clinical psychology with veterinary science through a series of structured activity sessions, the programme has been put together as interacting with dogs has been shown to have a range of benefits, from reducing stress to increasing positive mood.
Professor Jo Williams, one of the programme’s creators, said: “Each session has a key focus, based on psychological research, to enhance wellbeing and provide each participant with skills that they can use to support their mental health.
“Interacting with the dogs is an essential part of the programme and students are also learning about canine welfare and compassion to self and others.”
Each session will focus on specific learning outcomes, as well as therapeutic objectives designed to help students not only reflect on their own challenges, but to recognise the connections between their wellbeing and an animal’s welfare needs, the university said.
The university added that the programme’s use of psychological principles sets it apart from other pet therapies, making it the first of its kind to combine student mental health and animal welfare through a series of planned sessions.
Following trial sessions last year, staff have now set up a referral route to link the programme with the university’s student wellbeing programme.
Once a student has been referred to the scheme, and completed a screening process, they are then offered a series of four, weekly sessions with a small group of other students and a registered therapy dog and its handler.
During the sessions, students will engage in a range of canine-assisted, wellbeing exercises including interacting with the dog, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques.
Izzy Adams, a third year student who took part in the trial sessions, said it had been “great learning the various grounding and awareness techniques that you can also do in your own time”.
“I found it made mindfulness – something that I struggled with before – so much easier when there is a dog to focus on,” she said.
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