The activity of animal mediation corresponds to the search for positive interactions resulting from the intentional connection between humans and animals in the educational, therapeutic or social fields. It helps in particular to maintain or improve the cognitive, physical, psychological or social potential of patients. Highlighting this practice offered at the Clinique des Quatre-Saisons (Ramsay Santé) located in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône).
Animal mediation can be defined as a helping relationship with a preventive and/or therapeutic aim, combining a patient and an animal. It allows to act on the motor, psychomotor, cognitive, sensory, social and affective levels of the patients. This practice takes the form of animal-assisted therapeutic and educational activities (zoopedagogy) and can be carried out individually or in groups.
How is an animal mediation session?
Each month, the care team of the Clinique des Quatre-Saisons and the DOLCI ANIMALI structure offers two animal mediation interventions (lasting an hour and a half) to voluntary patients (depending on their psychological state). Each session is led by a professional in animal mediation, accompanied by her animals and at least one carer (nurse or caregiver, who will have the role of ensuring the smooth running of the session). Each month, the care team of the Clinique des Quatre-Saisons and the DOLCI ANIMALI structure offers two animal mediation interventions (lasting an hour and a half) to voluntary patients (depending on their psychological state). Each session is led by a professional in animal mediation, accompanied by her animals and at least one carer (nurse or caregiver, who will have the role of ensuring the smooth running of the session).
Various animals can be associated during a session. Among them: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, roosters, rodents (gerbils, degus, hamsters), birds (laughing doves, doves, etc.) and/or reptiles (snakes , lizards, turtles). Thanks to the distinct characteristics of all these animals, which are specially educated, several senses will be worked on (hearing, smell, touch, sight).
In these approaches, the animal mediation worker insists on the playful dimension, on pleasure. “The patient must be voluntary and free to go to the animal or not, to look at it, to touch it, to choose the one with which he will feel most comfortable so that a real emotional investment is created with him. . The animal has an advantage: it is a spontaneous partner who does not speak, does not judge, does not betray, does not refer to difficulties. On the contrary, he seems to listen, to hear, to agree. It easily gives you confidence,” says Aurélie TONDO, the animal mediation worker working at the Clinique des Quatre-Saisons.
Animal mediation, a practice with multiple benefits
By participating in an animal mediation session, the patient prepares to live a wide range of experiences that will lead him to a certain well-being at the end of the session. The main benefits of this practice are:
- A discovery (or rediscovery) of animals.
- Improved concentration, attention, memory, as well as alertness/benevolence abilities.
- An incentive for verbal and non-verbal communication: making oneself understood by the animal/the worker, acting with the animal, acting with “the other”.
- A favored interaction with the entourage, in order to fight against social isolation.
- An awakening of the senses (hearing, touch, sight, smell).
- Stimulation and preservation of mobility and tone, by working on the mobilization of the limbs, coordination (brushing, caresses, play, etc.), fine motor skills, visual pursuit, spatiotemporal landmarks.
- An improvement or even a restoration of self-esteem.
- An apprenticeship in the sense of responsibility.
- A development and/or maintenance of imagination and creativity.
- A reduction in tensions, anxieties and aggressiveness, with a reduction in depression, a regulation of behavioral disorders and therefore greater serenity, a feeling of relaxation, well-being and appeasement.
- Learning to respect others by integrating the rules of society.
” Over the course of the sessions, the caregivers notice a significant improvement in the behavior of the patients on the psychological level. Interactions between patients develop more around the animals: they take care of them, in particular by feeding them, which creates a moment of conviviality. In psychotic patients (who often have trouble staying focused for a long time), listening and attention skills improve markedly from week to week says the expert, explaining that this practice is also beneficial to the entire healthcare team.
” Over time, the distance has given way to complicity and the appointment has become an essential moment, for the patients and for the healthcare team. “, continues Aurélie, highlighting the extremely positive feedback from patients. ” Relaxation, joy, affection, tenderness, happiness, sweetness, companionship, love: so many terms used by patients to describe their feelings during an animal mediation activity.e”, concludes the specialist.