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When children are scared

New therapy for children

Doctors Frank Zimmermann from Heppenheim and Victor Kacic from Ansbach developed a therapy for children against fear of dogs and presented it at the International Congress for Human-Animal Interactions in Rio. There is now a waiting list in the outpatient department for child and adolescent psychiatry in Heppenheim (branch of the Riedstadt Clinic) and in the clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Ansbach district hospital.

How did you come up with this therapy?

Zimmermann: In our outpatient department for child and adolescent psychiatry, there have been isolated cases of dog fear in which the children were often severely impaired for years. They ran into the streets out of fear or no longer dared to visit friends. There are treatment concepts for phobias for adults, but not for children.

When should dog fear be treated?

Kacic: When children are limited in everyday life because of their fears. When a child avoids situations and can no longer go anywhere alone because they could run into a dog there …

What is your therapy like?

Kacic: First we impart knowledge about dogs. In this theoretical part the child learns how to communicate with the dog. We explain the body language and say, for example: This is what a happy dog ​​looks like. Then the children learn to manage their fear. Three things belong to this strategy: breathing through the belly, a very personal saying of courage such as “With courage it’s fine” and a courage marble for your pocket. Children are so young that they believe in magical things. In practice, when we visit the animal shelter, they will meet particularly nice dogs that the animal shelter employees select for us.

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How long does the therapy last?

Kacic: After the diagnosis, we visit the shelter for eight weeks, once a week.

Are the parents with you?

Zimmermann: You have to bring in your parents. But they get extra appointments.

Are the children treated individually?

Zimmermann: No, in groups of three. Working in a group is particularly important for the children. There they learn together how to deal with their fear. An anxious child shows the other how to do it.

How old are your patients?

Kacic: Between five and nine years.

Will you pass your therapy on to colleagues so that more children can benefit from it?

Zimmermann: We plan to develop a handbook for therapists.

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