Therapist Spotlight: Missy Cohen, LCSW
Missy Cohen, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker here at Focus Integrative Centers, brings a unique set of skills to our multi-disciplinary team. She has an impressive professional career that has allowed her to grow and expand her practice into something that both reflects what she is passionate about, as well as serve her clientele in special ways that other professionals in the same field may not always use. While Missy does specialize in many areas of psychotherapy, I wanted to sit down with her this month and hear more about her use of animal-assisted therapy and children’s play therapy.
Animal-assisted therapy serves in conjunction with traditional work done by a licensed psychologist, social worker, or other mental health care provider. The only difference between traditional therapy and animal-assisted therapy is that there is an animal available during sessions for clients to pet, hold, play with, or even simply sit with in order to provide a sense of calm and comfort, as well as safety. This calm, safe atmosphere provided by the animals, allows clients to relax and become more open, and therefore share his or her thoughts more freely. The animals also provide comfort to clients when sharing difficult feelings or traumatic events by snuggling up beside them or sitting in their lap. Dogs are the primary animals used in this type of therapy which is the case for Missy - she brings her 10-year-old Labrador Retriever, Adonaya. Adonaya was formally trained to be an emotional-support therapy animal when he was just a puppy and has been helping Missy with her sessions ever since. Adonaya is sweet and friendly, yet docile tempered which is a perfect combination for this type of work.
Animal-assisted therapy is beneficial for many different reasons, but Missy says that the use of this specific type of therapy has been extremely helpful during her work with trauma, depression, anxiety, impulse-control issues, ADHD, behavioral issues, and children having transitional issues such as moving schools or divorcing parents. Missy truly believes everyone at any age can benefit from this specific type of therapy. And the research agrees, animal-assisted therapy has shown to yield numerous types of benefits, both psychological and physiological, for a variety of populations over the years throughout a variety of studies (Paquette, 2011).
The other specialty of Missy’s that is unique to our team at Focus is her use of play therapy in children. While Missy sees clients of all ages, play therapy is designed specifically for a much younger population who have a harder time expressing their emotions. She uses strategic methods of play to relate to each child’s individual needs. For example, Missy will use dolls and a dollhouse to encourage a child to express their thoughts or feelings about his or her own family through a story while using the dolls. Missy says that play therapy has been very successful with the children she sees in coping with a number of issues that may be going on both internally and externally.
Written by: Kaitlyn C. Tucker, RDN, Focus Integrative Centers, Knoxville, TN
References: Paquette, Laurie C., et al. “Animal-Assisted Therapy: Perspectives and Benefits.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2011, doi:10.1037/e681352011-001
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