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The Transformative Power of Animal Assisted Therapy: A Conversation with Dr. Colleen Dell

A few months ago, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Colleen Dell, an esteemed researcher specializing in animal assisted therapy and mental health interventions. Dr. Dell's work is a testament to the profound impact animals can have on our well-being. Throughout our conversation, she shared heartwarming stories, insightful research, and her unwavering passion for the human-animal bond.

Unleashing the Healing Power: Dr. Dell's journey into the field of animal assisted intervention research was inspired by her profound love for animals. Harnessing her background in criminal justice, mental health, substance use, and indigenous health, she embarked on a mission to explore the profound connections between humans and animals. She saw animals as valuable co-researchers and colleagues who could aid in various settings, from addiction treatment facilities to hospital emergency rooms and even COVID vaccination clinics.

Touching Lives Behind Bars: One of the remarkable aspects of Dr. Dell's work is the positive influence therapy dogs have had on the lives of individuals in drug rehab centers and prisons. She recounted moving experiences where dogs provided solace, comfort, and companionship to those facing challenges and isolation. The therapy dogs, with their unwavering emotional intelligence, seemed to know precisely how to connect with people and provide them with the love and support they needed.

Paw-sitive Impact during COVID: During our conversation, Dr. Dell also highlighted the invaluable role therapy dogs played during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were present at vaccination clinics, bringing a sense of calm and reassurance to individuals who were anxious about receiving injections. Dr. Dell shared a touching story about a man who was terrified of needles but found the strength to face his fear with the support of a therapy dog by his side. These anecdotes exemplify the profound bond that exists between humans and animals.

Breaking New Ground in Research: One of the highlights of our conversation was Dr. Dell's groundbreaking randomized control trial, the first of its kind, where therapy dogs were introduced into hospital emergency rooms. The study examined the outcomes and impact of this intervention, and its results have been downloaded over 10,000 times. This research sheds light on the immense potential of animal assisted therapy and its ability to transform the healthcare landscape.

Animal Consciousness and the Human-Animal Bond: Delving deeper into the profound connection between humans and animals, Dr. Dell shared her insights into animal consciousness and communication. She believes that animals possess a level of sentience and emotional intelligence that enables them to communicate with humans on a deeper level. Through her work, she has witnessed the power of the human-animal bond and its ability to enrich lives and promote well-being.

Looking Toward the Future: As our conversation drew to a close, Dr. Dell discussed the evolving landscape of animal welfare and the shifting perspectives on the human-animal bond. She emphasized the need for collaboration across disciplines, including the medical profession, to acknowledge and embrace the therapeutic potential animals possess. By undoing conditioning and embracing the healing power of animals, we can create positive change on a larger scale.

Through her research and unwavering dedication, Dr. Dell is shaping a new narrative where animals play a vital role in enhancing our health and well-being. We invite you to listen to this episode to hear more about her work.

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