Bentley the dog providing ‘pawsitive’ interactions for CMHIFL clients

Julia Lamb is the music therapist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan (CMHIFL). Over the past four years, she has facilitated animal-assisted therapy (AAT) sessions with Bentley, the dog, and his handler, Arne. With AAT, clients often brighten and engage in ways not experienced or observed in other forms of therapy or interactions.

As many of us in our own communities shift, adapt and experience challenges and losses during the pandemic, we collectively recognize the struggles we encounter with decreased access to activities and people that make our lives feel meaningful. The clients at CMHIFL have also had to experience these limitations and challenges as the hospital continues to take precautions to prioritize and ensure the clients' health and safety. The facility’s patients have handled these difficulties with impressive resiliency and patience.

As a way to adapt to this new norm and find innovative approaches to provide therapeutic experiences, Arne and Lamb have been offering encrypted video chats as a way for CMHIFL clients to connect with Bentley. Several of the patients have commented on how helpful and positive these video chats have been for them. It gives them the opportunity to stay connected to Arne and Bentley, see how they’re navigating the challenging circumstances, and talk about it in a relaxed and normalizing manner and environment. Additionally, the therapeutic experience of video AAT sessions helps patients practice skills needed for community life such as social skills, attention skills, conversational turn-taking and development of coping skills. In addition to the video chats, Arne handed out postcards that had Bentley’s picture on them so the clients could keep a picture of him in their rooms. The AAT visits offer a sense of hope and normalcy to CMHIFL clients during these unprecedented times.
Pictured right: Bentley in uniform and his trainer, Arne, brighten the days of patients at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan  through virtual animal-assisted therapy.