Creature Comfort Pet Therapy was recently invited for the third year to speak to Colleen Daly Martinez’s Master of Social Work play therapy class at Rutgers School of Social Work in Newark. The guest lecturers were Steven Herz and his nationally distinguished dog, Koko, who is a Labradoodle.
Regarding the benefits of teaching about pet therapy in her class, Professor Martinez explained, “I want to expose my students to exciting new interventions so they can be inspired to continue to grow as therapists, long after they have earned their MSW. Pet Therapy and Animal Assisted Therapy are interventions that have been shown to be effective in many areas, including improving social skills in children with autism.” As a registered play therapist as well as a licensed clinical social worker, Martinez knows that creative, expressive and multisensory interventions can be highly effective in meeting the needs of children and traumatized individuals.
Herz is a founding member of Creature Comfort Pet Therapy (CCPT), a groundbreaking pet therapy organization. CCPT serves North and Central Jersey and will celebrate its third anniversary on Nov. 30. The team currently visits over 70 facilities in nine counties and has done over 1,700 visits this year.
Herz and Koko’s experiences in the field affirm Martinez’s comments. Five years ago, CCPT was part of a multi-week project at UMDNJ's Behavioral Health Sciences building in Newark. That project involved working with young boys with absent fathers. The effect was reduced anger issues among the boys and a willingness to talk to each other, facilitated by the presence of Koko. Herz has worked with stroke victims, and for the past eight years worked at Newark’s Lincoln Elementary School where twice a month Koko and two of her therapy dog partners help second graders work on their reading. “Dogs are nonjudgmental, and therefore the perfect tool to assist a child in that endeavor,” he added.