Therapy comes on four legs at Paws Your Stress
The average college student has a lot on their mind. Assignments, exams, money, friends, jobs, it can all add up. Student wellness has always been a concern at Centennial College, and sometimes the school comes up with unorthodox solutions to bust anxiety. Paws Your Stress is one of those methods. Held twice a semester at Progress Campus, the last session was held over three days in October. The aim is simply to connect students with four-legged canine counsellors, specifically therapy dogs.
According to Kevin Bourns, a counsellor at the Career & Counselling Centre, the idea came from a desire to give stressed students something more than traditional counselling. “We all know students are really busy,” he explains, “and so we don’t want to be giving them a workshop on study skills, or stress management, or anything that places a load on them. That’s very worthwhile early in the term, but during exam time, it’s all been said and done. I thought bringing in the therapeutic dogs would just be a nice opportunity for students to take a break during those stressful times, cool down, reorient themselves, have a little bit of food, and enjoy a sort of nurturing component.”
The dogs, as well as their trainers, come from a non-profit organization called Therapeutic Paws of Canada, which has trailed dogs and their owners to go to schools, hospitals, and community centres to spend time with people there and lower their stress. “Research has shown that spending a little time with a dog, or a friendly pet, can lower stress levels,” Kevin says. “We were one of the very first colleges in Ontario to do this about three years ago.”
So far, the response has been positive from students, and they love the animals present at the event. “It’s getting to the point now where a lot of people know the dogs,” Kevin says, “and they’re asking for them by name, and they’re looking forward to them coming in.”
There’s another component to the event, too, in the form of free massages conducted by members of the Athletic and Wellness Centre. “We always like to work with other departments and programs at the college,” Kevin explains, “You’d be amazed at how many students are walking around with a lot of knots and discomfort because they’re leaning over desks and laptops and books for such a long period of time.”
Kevin organizes two groups of sessions a term, for three days each, scheduled shortly before midterms and final exams when student stress is at its highest. The next session is scheduled for December 2,3, and 4 in Progress’s Fireside Gallery from 12:00 to 2:00 pm, at no cost to students, as always. “It’s important to balance the hard work with breaks,” Kevin offers as advice, “so you can be energized and more focused when you’re studying. Paws Your Stress, for the weeks that we offer it, offers just such an opportunity. So I would just say come on by.”
By: Anthony Geremia