The GoodTherapy.org GoodCause program honors and supports nonprofit organizations in the field of mental health or therapy that align with our mission and vision. It is our pleasure to feature Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) as our latest GoodCause!
ITA integrates animal-assisted therapy with other speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as psychotherapy. Its Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program, launched in 1999, encourages innovative new ways for children to learn and grow in their communication skills by providing animal companion teams to children. Children read to the animals to foster a love for reading and books and overcome learning difficulties. Executive Director of ITA Kathy Klotz calls R.E.A.D. the “biggest accomplishment” of ITA, but notes that there is more on the horizon for ITA.
Klotz answered some questions for GoodTherapy.org about her inspiration and motivation for getting involved with ITA at its inception, as well as her aspirations for the organization. She writes, “It was my dog who changed my whole life completely. The first time I read about animal-assisted therapies, in the Los Angeles Times, I just knew my Australian Shepherd, Foster, was born to have that job, that he would love it and I would love accompanying him.”
When Klotz talked to her veterinarian about the concept of animal-assisted therapy, he was familiar with the organization and enthusiastic about Klotz’s involvement. “He had a client who had just formed our organization. She called me immediately, and Foster and I were in! Being a brand new organization, they needed everything, and I was happy to volunteer for any and all tasks. I was asked by the board to be the assistant director in 1996, and promoted to executive director in early 1997.”
While animal-assisted psychotherapy as a formal approach to healing is relatively new, we know that people have seen animals as powerful positive forces for ages. Animals can naturally ease anxiety and make the therapy process more comfortable. “[Animals] are incomparable catalysts and motivators to help patients who are struggling through the worst crises of their lives to be willing to do the hard work of therapy,” says Klotz. “Animals are compelling, engaging, and much more fun than equipment and institutional settings. They are a powerful means for instilling hope, motivation, and fun into what can otherwise be grueling and difficult and discouraging.”
Klotz says ITA has 12 colleague groups in nine states that have adopted the R.E.A.D. program, as well as registered teams in all 50 states and 12 countries. And, she says, the program continues to grow. “We just want to keep getting better at what we do, learning more about our animal partners and our relationships with them, and more about the most effective ways to interact with various clients in ways that will benefit all in the relationship.”
Through all its success, ITA and the R.E.A.D. program continue to hold individual relationships paramount, and Klotz says the drive is always about meaningful healing. “The value in our work lies in each moment, one-on-one, making healing connections that can help and inspire our clients. As such, we’ve found that just getting BIGGER is definitely not a worthy goal, although we’ve found much success. We insist on keeping it personal, focusing on relationships.”
The collaborative aspect of ITA’s work and the attention to individual needs and learning styles are just parts of why ITA is a great fit for the GoodTherapy.org GoodCause program. GoodCause introduces the growing GoodTherapy.org audience to other organizations dedicated to reducing stigma surrounding mental health and promoting healthy and ethical therapy. You can donate to any of our featured GoodCause organizations by clicking here.
GoodTherapy.org supports ITA and its efforts to use innovative methods to touch hearts and create hope. Klotz says, “Our best accomplishments are being able to change lives for the better in those singular moments when their lights go on and they smile again for the first time.”
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