animal assisted therapy
Animal therapy makes a difference for children from Sderot. Here is how

There are numerous therapists who specialize in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). However, Noa Dotan has elevated her practice by combining CBT with animal-assisted therapy. Noa Dotan was the first animal therapist at the Sderot Resilience Center supported by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.

Dotan’s dedication to helping communities in need goes far beyond her work at the Resilience Center. She spends countless hours working with and supporting various communities throughout the entire Eshkol Regional Council.

Hailing from Sde Nitzan, a serene agricultural moshav located 60 kilometers south of Sderot, Dotan knows firsthand the challenges and struggles faced by those living on Israel’s southern border.

Being a resident of an area that has been directly affected by terror attacks, Dotan is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of those around her.

Benefits of animal-based therapy

Nowadays, a significant portion of Dotan’s time is dedicated to serving the communities in Eilat. Her focus lies on rehabilitating and providing care for children and youth who have been displaced from their homes in Sderot and other neighboring Gaza Envelope communities.

She firmly believes in the benefits of animal-based therapy for these young patients. Unlike traditional treatments that take place within closed and confined spaces, animal therapy allows children to take on the role of caregiver.

They have the opportunity to interact with and control animals, from training dogs to taking care of goat cages and preparing food for their furry friends. Through these activities, children are constantly engaged and actively involved in their own healing process.

Other benefits

When working with animals during therapy sessions, Dotan shares that children often express hidden messages that they struggle to put into words. An example of this occurred when a young child built a Lego house for their pet hamsters and added wheels to the bottom of the structure. The child explained that the house was mobile because they themselves were not living in their own home.

This simple act of building for the hamsters allowed the child to express their own circumstances, leading to a deeper conversation with Dotan about their life. Dotan emphasizes that the goal of animal therapy is to help children regain their ability to function and tap into their resilience to navigate their new reality. She believes that animals act as a bridge between therapist and patient, providing a safe space for children to express themselves without fear.

At the height of the conflict in Sderot, while most residents had been evacuated to safety, Dotan remained in the city. However, she wasn’t alone. She was accompanied by a family she was treating – a mother and her two young children, one of whom lost their father to the ongoing violence.

This visit served as an opportunity for them to connect with their late father and come to terms with their loss. Together, they visited the cemetery where he was buried and wrote letters to him, providing a sense of closure and understanding for the children. Dotan also believes that teaching children about animals and their unpredictable life cycles can help them cope with loss of a loved one.

Mental health Awareness

There are many organizations and centers devoted to spreading knowledge about mental health and offering aid for those who require it. We at the Illinois Autism Center recognize the significance of prompt intervention and effective therapy in enhancing the well-being of individuals with ASD.