My Journey so far……
I started my career in teaching in 2001 and whilst working in mainstream schools I always found myself wanting to work with the young people who had struggles. After 8 years, l left mainstream teaching and began working in a special school that specialised in children with autism and who struggled with their emotional and mental health. I soon realised that this was what I wanted to do and where my skills were best suited. As a child, I grew up on a farm so was always outside working with the animals and soon realised how intelligent animals are and the therapeutic effects that they can bring. Whilst working at a previous provision, I started to introduce animals into the wellbeing sessions and started to see some amazing results.
Going out on my own…..
In October 2020, I decided to set up my own service, Furry Friends Therapy. This felt quite daunting as it was down to only me to make this work, however I believed in the animal therapy and the amazing effect that it brings to young people through to adults, so there was never an option to fail. There are so many young people and adults in need of this alternative therapy that I knew demand would be high, however underestimated just how high.
Since establishing Furry Friends Therapy, I have been visiting schools and nursing homes through 2021 with my amazing furry friends, Bella the therapy dog and Misty and Vanilla the super guinea pigs. I also own a therapy horse called Rhubarb, so although I currently can’t take her on external visits due to transport, I offer the option for session to take place where Rhubarb is kept. I am currently working with several young people who have their own struggles, ranging from behavioural issues, autism, poor emotional and mental health, attachment disorders, grief, and many other areas.
I believe that there is always a reason for behaviour and no young person or adults acts the way they do without a reason. With the help of my furry friends, I work with the young people to get to the bottom of what is causing their struggles. During the sessions, we talk whilst petting the animals and due to the therapeutic effects that the animals bring, people feel more at ease to open up about their feelings, which allows me to listen and then assist them in teaching them new coping mechanisms to help them with everyday life.
How does animal therapy work…..
The animal therapy sessions have proven to improve many areas including:
Lessons the severity of panic attacks and panic disorders
Assists with Grief / Loss
Helps with attachment disorders
To summarise, the interaction with animals, decreases distress and improves mood. The effects of animal therapy are measurable, as seen by an increase in the release of endorphins in the person interacting with the animal. Endorphins are brain chemicals that are released and make you feel good.
Due to the calming effects that the sessions bring, it then allows me as a therapist to work with the person who is interacting with the animals and to help in showing them new coping mechanisms, which helps to improve their overall resilience.
Results so far….
During the last 12 months, I have worked with several schools and local authorities who have appointed me to work with young people who are struggling in various ways.
The results I have seen have been fantastic and the feedback from schools has been amazing, with almost all schools continuing their sessions on an ongoing basis.
Jane has worked with one of our pupils and the child has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Jane is warm and friendly and she has a natural affinity with children. Bella, Jane’s dog has a wonderful nature and children are drawn to her intuitive and calm manner. Jane cares about the children and can form relationships quickly. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Jane.
We have been working with Jane from Furry Friends since May this year and the children Jane has worked with have loved the sessions and we have seen an improvement in their overall behaviour within the school setting. We will be continuing these sessions for the foreseeable future and will be soon allowing more of our students to access this service.
What can I say, other than Wow! What an amazing approach Jane has with our pupils. We have previously been working with lots of other services that have been unable to help one of our more troubled students. Jane came along with the animals and took the time to get to know this pupil and has worked with him for 2 full terms and he is like a different child. He has improved confidence and his behaviour has improved dramatically as he has implemented some of the new ways Jane has taught him. We now have 3 students working with Jane, all of whom we are seeing big improvements each week. Thankyou Jane and Bella for all your hard work and for your amazing approach with our pupils.
The next step I need to take is to employ 2 new wellbeing coaches / animal therapists to allow me to fulfil the demand for this service and to enable me to help more people who are struggling.
As well as employing more staff, I will also need to invest in more animals, to enable multiple visits to be happening at the same time, allowing us to reach as many people as possible who need this service.
For this to happen I will need to purchase a large outbuilding to house all the animals. I would like this outbuilding to be operated as a base/centre, where the animals are kept and where we offer people who are in need of our service the opportunity to come along and visit our animals onsite, where we will always have animals and a wellbeing coach on hand to talk to.
My ultimate goal begins by setting up a therapy centre in Staffordshire with full facilities for people to come along 24/7, alongside offering the outreach visits. I would like to expand the outreach services initially throughout all of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire with the view to expand this across the UK and eventually have a therapy centre in each region.
How can we make this happen….
I am passionate about making a difference to people lives and giving people the best opportunity to improve their lives and to help with their struggles. To enable this to happen, I need to raise funds to employ additional staff and to purchase the outbuilding/base. The outbuilding will need to have full electrics, water supply, heating, toilet facilities, kitchen area, internal therapy/petting area for the smaller animals and an outdoor petting area for larger animals
I have seen the demand for this service and am fully dedicated to making it happen and now need help to raise funds to move to the next steps. Whilst raising funds, I will be continuing to provide the outreach sessions and in time would like to raise funds to purchase transport to enable me to take the larger animals, such as the horses, out on visits for those who are unable to attend the centre.
As a Community Interest Company, all profits are invested back into the business to allow me to continue to grow this service and to help as many people as possible and with your help we can start to reach more people sooner, rather than later.
Thankyou for taking time to read this and please remember every penny counts, no matter how big or how small. I appreciate any help we receive and will be keeping you updated on our next steps and where this journey goes.