May 11, 2023 – KBC Split is the first hospital in Croatia that has its own therapy dog. Her name is Dora, she is the cutest, and she has been working for almost two weeks now.
As Dalmatinski Portal writes, the royal poodle, one year and six months old, became part of the Department of Psychology and Educational Rehabilitation of the Clinic for Children’s Diseases of KBC Split. In addition to classic approaches, children will also have the option of innovative therapy methods that include a specially trained dog in therapeutic procedures or activities with children. It is a method that is available in many countries in Europe and the world, and KBC Split is the first in Croatia to provide this type of intervention.
Many employees of the Split hospital came to greet their new coworker. They also attended a lecture “Say yes to a therapy dog” to learn about the advantages of introducing a therapy dog as part of the intervention of an occupational therapist at the Clinic for Children’s Diseases.
President Mira Katalenić spoke about the history of development and activities of the Croatian Guide Dog Training and Mobility Association, with whose cooperation and support this project was realized. She explained the importance of animal-assisted therapy, thanks to which the physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning of the users improves. Assistance dog instructor Lana Glavan explained what their training process looks like, stressing that dogs become motivators and collaborators in the creation of occupational therapy interventions.
Occupational therapist and therapy dog manager for KBC Split, Matea Videk, revealed that Dora will be of help to the children patients of KBC Split. She pointed out that some of the planned activities with the therapy dog include individual occupational therapy procedures focused on therapeutic feeding, sensory integration, the floortime approach focused on the development of social skills and play, group cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy with school-age children with a wide range of difficulties within the Children’s Day Clinic, as well as preparation through play for medical procedures and occasional dog visits to long-term hospitalized patients.
Director of KBC Split prof. Ph.D. Julije Meštrović expressed his joy that this project, which had been in the works for more than a year, has been successfully realized. “Medical care for children increasingly requires a multidisciplinary approach, especially in the context of the emergence of new children’s diseases and disorders, to which KBC Split responded by employing children’s psychologists, educational rehabilitators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and even a therapy dog,” he said and thanked everyone who have helped to make this big and beautiful step forward for tiny patients.
He also reminded that preparatory activities for the construction of the Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Children and Youth building are underway. Assoc. prim. Ph.D. Branka Polić, head of the Clinic for Children’s Diseases of KBC Split, also expressed gratitude and confirmed that Dora has been enthusiastically accepted by the work team and the children who will spend every day with her.
Head of the Department of Psychology and Educational Rehabilitation, Ph.D. Irena Mišetić emphasized that the research results show that inclusion of therapy dogs in the therapeutic process brings numerous benefits for children, such as a reduction in stress and anxiety, a reduced feeling of loneliness, a feeling of increased physical and psychological well-being, improved quality of life and physiological functioning, a reduction of trauma symptoms, reduced withdrawal from therapy and increased level of participation in group therapies, while not interfering with processes relevant to effective psychotherapy. Also, there are indications that dogs can detect and respond to the emotional state of humans, making them useful in detecting emotional distress.
All the benefits were confirmed by 23-year-old Valentina Banić, who has been a patient of KBC Split for 22 years, and has had her own therapy dog for 11 years. It helped her improve the overall quality of life, her self-confidence increased, she was able to establish social interaction more easily and create a new circle of friends. Among the activities she enjoys with her dog, she especially emphasized hiking.
Hopefully the little patients of KBC Split will develop amazing friendships with Dora, improve their quality of life and build many beautiful memories.
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