Our Work: Canine Assisted Intervention

“In recognition of all the donors who supported the establishment of the Canine Assisted Intervention program.

Cross, a caring canine who touched many lives at Rogers Behavioral Health inspired the program. Special thanks to Steve and Rhonda Murphy for their dedication and support.”

Paws Against Pain: Fundraising Initiative

Rogers is grateful to Steve and Rhonda Murphy – and more than 100 donors – for their financial support that helped launch Rogers’ Canine Assisted Intervention program in memory of their dog, Cross. Through Cross’s intuitive nature, warm heart, and nonjudgmental spirit, Cross demonstrated that the hard work of mental health and addiction recovery can be made a bit easier with a canine assist. Cross’s spirit lives on through Kobe.

While the pilot program is firmly in place, support is still needed. Ongoing costs for Kobe, including veterinary care, food, and grooming are supported 100% by gracious donors of the “Paws Against Pain” fundraising initiative. You can help.

Designate your gift to Canine Assisted Intervention.

Leveraging the power of canine-human interactions

Unlike what we have come to know as "pet therapy," CAI contains goal-oriented, structured interactions for the purpose of improved health and wellness.

Anyone with a dog can tell you: the unconditional support of a tail-wagging canine can be good for the mind, body, and spirit. In fact, over the past decade the concept of “pet therapy” has gained ground, with National Institutes of Health research showing that dog interactions increase the anti-stress hormone oxytocin and lower levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. 

While it has become common for dogs to play an informal role in helping those in need of comfort feel better, structured Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI), such as the program that Rogers’ is piloting, are few and far between—especially in the Midwest region of the country where Rogers’ main campus resides.

Unlike what we have come to know as “pet therapy,” CAI contains goal-oriented, structured interactions for the purpose of improved health and wellness. At Rogers, CAI is being launched within specific residential treatment programs for adults and adolescents with OCD, anxiety, and depression to help them achieve identified treatment goals.

Meet Kobe

With the title of Experiential Therapy Assistant, Kobe, Rogers’ first four-legged employee, understands that helping people on their journeys to mental health recovery is part of his job description.

A lovable lab/golden retriever mix, Kobe joined our team in March 2023. He came to us from the Paws with a Cause (PAWS) custom raining facility in Wayland, Michigan.

Kobe is a “facility dog,” which means he is a working dog specifically trained to help more than one person at facilities like Rogers. Unlike assistance dogs assigned to one person, Kobe is being trained to work with a handler to serve multiple people who need social interaction, recovery motivation, comfort, and/or a feeling of safety.

Learn what it takes to build a canine assisted intervention program with standardized procedures across different treatment programs.

Learn more about Kobe and CAI at Rogers

Benefits of CAI

With the field of CAI gaining traction, so too is the need and desire to measure outcomes. To date, smaller studies and anecdotal reports are encouraging. For example:

  • Incorporating dog-related activities can facilitate communication between the therapist and the patient, which increases positive interactions.
  • Dogs are in a unique situation to display emotions and behaviors that may not be deemed professionally appropriate for a therapist, such as taking on a comforting role.
  • There is evidence to suggest that canine assisted therapy may improve the value of adolescent mental health treatments by reducing symptoms of PTSD, and the severity of serious psychiatric disorders.
  • Canine assisted therapy may also prove beneficial in improving therapeutic processes such as attendance and retention, positive socialization, and feelings of connection.

As CAI at Rogers continues to grow, are goal is to stop asking if therapy dogs are helpful in a mental health context and start answering how to best integrate them within health care teams.

Learn more about mental health and addiction challenges and the work of Rogers Behavioral Health Foundation on our YouTube channel.