Thursday, 23 June 2011

Working with animals to help people

An innovative approach to counselling for the West Midlands.

Humanima CIC is a West-Midlands based social enterprise providing a professional humanistic counselling and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) service to individuals and organisations in the local area. At present, HumAnima CIC’s developing projects are centred on a counselling service for disadvantaged communities who otherwise may not be able to access such vital aid. The company is also aiming to work together with local businesses and establishments to offer its services.

Kathryn Kimbley, HumAnima CIC’s Director and Counsellor, has always been passionate about animals and when deciding on a career path, was unsure how she could combine her love of animals together with her desire to help people. Animal Assisted Therapy allowed her to do both.

Kathryn has been able to make her dream a reality thanks to the generous support of UnLtd, who having recognised her social enterprise, HumAnima CIC’s potential have provided her with a Level 1 Award to help jumpstart the business. As a Community Interest Company (CIC), which is a form of social enterprise, HumAnima CIC is a not-for-profit organisation, where all profits made are reinvested back into the business to further its development, reach and potential.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an approach that has developed over the years as a result of professionals recognising the inherent value and benefits associated with interacting with animals. Research has shown that the presence of animals can have a calming or de-stressing effect on people. It has also been suggested that including animals in therapy may serve as a buffer and divert attention from a situation which could make a client extremely anxious.

“It is important to remember that no two people are the same. One in four of us will experience mental illness at some point in our lives. This might take form in many different ways such as depression, anxiety or general stress but we may not notice that something is wrong until things aren’t going in quite the same way as we had hoped.” — Kathryn Kimbley, director of Humanima CIC.

The main counselling approach that is used at HumAnima CIC is known as 'Person-centred' counselling or 'Client-centred Therapy'. This approach is non-directive but relies on providing three 'core conditions' that will support and enable the client to reach their full potential.

Kathryn uses her four-year old English Cocker Spaniel, Flossie, in her therapy sessions. She is a very even tempered and well trained Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, which means that she has passed an assessment which has recognised her as being suitable for therapeutic visits to different public locations such as schools, hospitals or residential homes.

The last few years have been spent setting up the business, developing the services that will be on offer and continuing research to help ensure the business is a success. With everything in place, HumAnima CIC will now be able to offer private and confidential counselling services to individuals who feel they may benefit from one-to-one counselling be it because of stress, depression, anxiety, any other mental health difficulties or just to offload. Clients will have the choice of having Flossie, Kathryn’s Therapy Dog, present or not in their sessions together.

Shamiela Ahmed, Development Manager for UnLtd Birmingham, who is supporting Kathryn said “HumAnima is an innovative project, with a dynamic entrepreneur driving it. It will offer services to a diverse range of communities who would otherwise not access counselling. I am looking forward to working with Kathryn to develop her service”.

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