VINCENTIA based psychologist Theresa Korman is glad people will be supported by dogs when they have to face stressful court situations.
Ms Korman said Nowra Court was a perfect location to use therapy dogs, following a recent trial at Manly Courthouse.
The nine-month trial of therapy dogs at Manly Court was a great success and people who participated said it was wonderful.
Nowra, in addition to Manly, Burwood, Campbelltown, Gosford, Goulburn, Lismore, Orange, Sutherland and Taree will now get therapy dogs.
In courthouses, they will be available in foyers, waiting areas, safe rooms and witness rooms.
Ms Korman said having therapy dogs in court was a fantastic idea.
“Most people I think who are involved in court situations are not there of their own doing and it's usually victims of crime or children caught up in crime or family situations,” she said.
“It normalises and calms people to see a dog there [in court] and helps release endorphins in our brain.”
She said just stroking a dog or having a dog sitting and looking up lovingly at someone can be beneficial in stressful situations.
“To care for victims in this way is so overdue,” said.
The psychologist would love to see dogs introduced into all courts.
“We do have support people in courts for victims but to bring it to a more common denominator and enhance that human/animal relationship is just fantastic,” she said.
“They [dogs] are non-judgemental and love you no matter what you look like and they give you more than you give them.”
She said the dog must have the right temperament.
Long haired chihuahua Lubie-Lou joins Ms Korman regularly at Psychology Jervis Bay.
Lubie-Lou is 10-years-old and has a calm and placid nature.
She has never bitten or growled at anyone.
“Her temperament is perfect for me to bring her into the office for when I see somebody who might need that little bit of something extra if they are anxious,” Ms Korman said.
They [dogs] are non-judgemental and love you no matter what you look like and they give you more than you give them.- Theresa Korman
She sees patients suffering all sort of conditions, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
Sometimes teenagers feel anxious seeing a psychologist and then they get a visit from Lubie-Lou.
“I put them in a room and then I say ‘I have decided to bring a specialist in to see you because I think this specialist can help you’,” she said.
“They then look and think ‘gosh who is it’ or ‘no not another person’ and then I bring Lubie in. You can see their shoulders relax and they get a calm look on their face.
“So she will just jump up, or sit next to them or get on their lap and they stroke her.”
She has had Lubie visit more with clients in the Southern Highlands, and the little dog often received gifts and treats because she was so loved.
Ms Korman said her patients didn’t realise they were getting help when they are with Lubie.
”It’s almost like the barriers just dissolve away,” the psychologist said.
The little dog makes Ms Korman more ‘real’ as well, as clients see her interaction with Lubie.
Lubie senses when people need their space or might not like dogs and she will not go near them.
The psychologist added cats could also calm people down.
She has another dog Lollipop, a short hair Chihuahua, and given time, could be another Lubie-Lou.
Comforting canines are on the way to more NSW courts after an overwhelmingly positive evaluation of the therapy dog trial at Manly Courthouse, Attorney General Mark Speakman recently announced .
“A visit to court can be among the most stressful experiences a person can endure. During the course of this year, placid pooches will be offering a pat and a paw to help reduce the anxiety of court users at 10 courthouses around the NSW,” Mr Speakman said.
An evaluation of the nine-month trial of therapy dogs at Manly showed support from all participants who provided glowing reports on the benefits of having a friendly animal in the courthouse.
“During the trial, these helpful hounds have assisted hundreds of victims of crime and witnesses who’ve enjoyed the benefits of the scientifically observed ‘pet effect’. It is exciting to see such a positive response to the program, not only from participants but also lawyers and court staff as well,” Mr Speakman said.
Manly MP James Griffin thanked the hardworking Delta Therapy Dog volunteers who made the Manly trial a success.
The Commissioner of Victims Rights is consulting with Courts and Tribunal Services to identify suitable courts.
When courts are selected, therapy dog providers will be invited to lodge expressions of interest.
Therapy dogs are quiet, specially trained, friendly and happy to interact with strangers.
The trial showed having dogs in the courthouse had no impact on the efficient running of the court.
The animals will be located in foyers, waiting rooms, safe rooms and witness rooms as required.
Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock and Member for Kiama Gareth Ward are happy therapy dogs will soon be available at Nowra Courthouse to support victims of crime and witnesses
“It’s clear we’re barking up the right tree with this program and I’m delighted therapy dogs will be helping to improve support for victims and witnesses at Nowra Courthouse,” Mrs Hancock said.
“I lobbied the Minister to include Nowra Courthouse in the rollout of the program because I knew it would make a real difference here on the South Coast and help reduce the stress and anxiety victims of crime and witnesses very often feel when appearing in court, especially those who have suffered domestic violence.
“I am thrilled the Minister has listened to my calls and provided our community with an opportunity to improve victim support via our local judicial system,” Mrs Hancock said.
“Coming to court can be a stressful experience, yet victims and witnesses have reported feeling more relaxed after spending time with a placid Poodle, a languid Labrador or a calming Cavoodle,” Mr Ward added.
“It’s a simple but effective initiative that I’m sure will prove just as successful here at Nowra Courthouse as the trial at Manly.
“As a government we should be doing all we can to support victims of crime and this is just a small way to support those in need at a difficult time,” Mr Ward said.
Dedicated volunteers will visit Nowra Courthouse with their dogs on one or more mornings a week.
At Manly, a variety of dogs have taken part in the program from a Miniature Poodle to a giant Bernese Mountain Dog.
Therapy dogs are already regular visitors to hospitals and aged cares centres in NSW, where their friendly, even temperaments have been earning smiles and spreading their puppy love.
Qualified therapy dog providers can find out more about applying to provide the service at https://tenders.nsw.gov.au between March 5 to 31.
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