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ED Recovery Blog

November 24, 2019

Animal-Assisted Therapy at Mirasol

Our New Assistant Therapist Has Great Listening Skills!

Onan

Mirasol has a new assistant therapist. Some say he's a fuzzy thinker, but with those ears, you know he's a good listener!

Amber Scott, a primary therapist at Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovyer Centers, sometimes works with a "co-therapist" named "Onan". Onan is a one-year-old Holland Lop, a dwarf domestic rabbit. His unusual coloring, known as "split face harlequin", refers to a division of color between the left and right sides of his face that alternate with the colors of his ears.

This pint-sized bundle of love joins a whole menagerie of animals — dogs, goats, miniature donkeys, chickens — who have been part of our program. Amber sees an important role for animal-assisted therapy in helping clients learn emotional regulation.

"I talk with clients about how our autonomic nervous systems can't distinguish between perceived and real threats; they only know to respond. Since rabbits are prey animals, they make excellent models for self-regulation because they can shift into a state of relaxation quickly once they recognize that there is no real threat. Also, by allowing for touch or exposing their back legs or belly, rabbits demonstrate that they feel safe and protected in their environment." Petting animals has shown to increase the release of oxytocin and reduce the level of cortisol.

Onan participates in both group and individual therapy sessions at Mirasol, promoting relaxation, connection, and healing, either through direct or indirect exposure. He's very popular with our clients, who often experience a shift in mood from interacting with him.

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