We also provide weekly drop in sessions within the mental health unit at HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, providing opportunities to interact positively with our team of trained dogs in an animal assisted activity programme. The service aims to help improve mood and well-being, facilitating positive social interactions with peers and staff. These sessions have maximum flexibility and are responsive to the women’s interests and needs on each individual visit.
The sessions are popular, and are attended consistently by many of the women (between 6-12 women typically attend each session) to interact with the dogs. There is a great deal of interest and enthusiasm expressed by the women, who were all very keen to interact with the dogs and speak to the team. The women frequently speak about how they look forward to the visits each week, and want the service to continue.
Having dogs present sparks conversation between the women and staff, and also between peers about their own dogs and their previous experiences with dogs. The levels of interaction range from getting involved with caring for the dogs (providing water and treats), playing with the dogs and asking them to do tricks, to observing and appreciating having the opportunity to have a chat with others about animals. There are positive learning outcomes identified for participants during sessions, both in relation to the understanding of dog care and in their abilities to participate socially in the group discussions.
“It’s the best thing to have happened in Cornton Vale.”
“The animals keep me calm and focused.”
“When I get my dog, when I get out, I want to do everything I can to form the best possible relationship.”
“It’s easier to talk to others when the dogs are there – they help you feel better, and you can’t help but smile.”