Dog training program offers work therapy for mentally ill people - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Dog training program offers work therapy for mentally ill people

Students at the Eastside Mental Health Center are learning how to be dog handlers as part of a dog-assisted work therapy program. Source: Alan Collins Students at the Eastside Mental Health Center are learning how to be dog handlers as part of a dog-assisted work therapy program. Source: Alan Collins
Thursday, the first group of students graduated from the Transitional Partners Program. Source: Alan Collins Thursday, the first group of students graduated from the Transitional Partners Program. Source: Alan Collins
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Today those with mental illness graduated from a unique training program that could lead to jobs.

It's called the Transitional Partners Program, a groundbreaking dog-assisted work therapy for those with severe mental illness. Students at the Eastside Mental Health Center are trained to be dog handlers. This is the first graduation class for the program.

"They can also benefit from increased confidence. A feeling of responsibility, just like everyone else would. It increases the quality of their lives," clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Schumacher said.

Aaron McDonald with the McDonald Canine Academy says in this program, everyone benefits.

"Dogs will qualify as therapy dogs. They will go through an extensive training, 12 weeks, 24 hour training program," he said.

McDonald hopes to see the program expanded if addition funding can be found through donations or grants.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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