Walking a mile
Sometimes our patients have difficulty taking another’s perspective. One of our first activities with patients is to teach them about animal behavior. We talk about their place in the food chain and their perspective. Then we explore questions like, why does the rooster “suddenly” crow? (Answer: Often he is calling his flock in because he has sensed danger or cannot find one of them). That can move into a discussion of why people “suddenly” relapse. Unlike the rooster who was alert to danger or someone straying from the flock, often patients who relapse were not being alert and listening to their “inner rooster.”
When petting or grooming an animal patients are encouraged to match their breathing to the animal’s. The animals we use for the first part of this exercise are calm and deliberate. We talk about how it feels to just “be” in the moment with the animal. We can talk about how the animal reacts to various things (sights, sounds, movement, smells etc.). By “tuning into” the animal, patients are developing skills they can apply to be more “in tune” with themselves.