FAQ about Therapy

Do I need a referral?

You do not require a referral to attend therapy at W.A.G. Therapeutic Service.  However, if you want to claim Medicare Rebates, a referral will be required from your GP.


A number of referral pathways are available at W.A.G. Therapeutic Service and are outlined in the Rebates section.


How long will my therapy session take?

Individual therapy sessions generally take 50-60 minutes.

FAQ about Therapy for Children

How do I prepare my child for therapy?

When introducing your child to the idea of seeing an allied health professional, it is important to tell them that the therapist will help them to talk about their thoughts and feelings and any problems that they may have.  Describe to them the types of activities that they may do with the therapist, for example, drawing, or listening to music.  Let your child know that if, at any time, they feel uncomfortable with the session, they can ask their parent or carer to join in, or can ask the therapist to stop the session.


What will happen during the first session?

During the first session, the therapist and your child will generally spend the majority of the session getting to know one another.  Once a degree of rapport is developed, the therapist will then spend time getting to understand the types of things that have been happening in the child’s life that may be causing him/her distress.  Your child is likely to be exposed to a few different therapy techniques, for example drawing, storytelling, animal assisted interventions, and relaxation techniques.


Can I watch my child during the therapy session?

On arriving for the first therapy session, both you and your child will be invited into the therapy room.  This is where the therapist will familiarise your child with the environment, and will talk to your child about how the therapy session will work.  Following this, and providing that your child feels comfortable, the therapist will ask you to wait in the reception area so that therapy can begin.  Once the therapy session has finished, the therapist will escort your child into the reception area for you to collect.  From time to time, you may be invited back into the therapy room at the end of the session, so that your child can share with you their experiences, if they wish. Please ensure you remain in the Clinic throughout your child’s session in case you are required.


Will I find out what happened in the therapy session?

It is important that children and young people are given the same rights as adults to a private and confidential therapy session. Therefore, if the child asks the therapist not to disclose information about what was said in the therapy session, the therapist needs to uphold this request.  However, parents and carers need to be assured that the safety of your child is paramount, and the therapist will always disclose to you any significant concerns relating to your child’s safety and wellbeing.  Additionally, while the therapist may not be able to relay the exact details of the session, you will always be provided with information pertaining to the therapeutic process, and ways that the family can best assist your child’s therapeutic journey.


How many sessions will my child need?

The therapist will discuss your child’s progress with you throughout the therapeutic process so that you are fully informed and able to get an understanding of counselling timeframes.  It is not uncommon for children and young people to need a few sessions (between 3-6) initially, and then to have a break before returning at a later time.

FAQ about Animal Assisted Therapy

Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
There are many potential benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy. Some of the common benefits are listed below:


  • Reduces anxiety – the presence of a friendly animal reduces the physiological symptoms of anxiety (increased heart rate, breathing, high blood pressure etc.), allowing clients to feel more comfortable in therapy.

  • Allows clients to experience unconditional acceptance; in particular, therapy animals quickly communicate how special they think a child client is in a way that children understand.

  • Fosters healthy attachment relationships, not only with the animal, but also with people.

  • Develops empathy, sharing, and care-giving capabilities.

  • Builds skills and confidence in clients.

  • Helps clients share traumatic experiences in an emotionally safe way.

  • Helps clients who have been abused, neglected, or rejected, to find new hope.

  • Allows modelling of different things, one of the most beneficial being how the therapist manages the animal’s behaviour.

  • Teaches appropriate behaviour with animals, and consequently, with other people.

  • Helps clients become more motivated for exercise and fitness.

  • Helps calm clients both emotionally and physiologically.

  • Provides a unique opportunity for clients to overcome a fear of dogs, and can prepare children for encounters with unfamiliar dogs in public.

  • Provides enjoyment, especially in child and adolescent clients who are often inclined to believe that they are being taken to therapy because there is ‘something wrong with them’. Being greeted by a therapy animal and including animals in therapy often allows the young person to feel more supported.



How does AAT work?

The animal interventionist may be involved in all therapy sessions, or may be involved in only some, or part, of the sessions, depending on the therapeutic goals and plan. A number of different activities and interactions are used to accomplish therapeutic goals.  Some of these include, but are not limited to:


  • Clients help train the dog, learning basic obedience commands and teaching the dog new tricks.

  • Clients learn how to stay safe with dogs as well as how to keep the dog safe.

  • Clients take part in grooming and caring for the dog, learning appropriate touch and sensitivity to the dog’s signals. This is often calming for both the client and the dog.

  • Clients learn to regulate their own emotions and behaviours as they interact with the dog.

  • Child clients may communicate their thoughts and feelings to the dog, either directly by telling the dog, or indirectly through stories or artwork involving the dog.

  • Child clients may engage in problem-solving by helping the dog “resolve” problems that might be similar to those experienced by the child.

What type of client is suitable for AAT?

Anyone can engage in AAT as long as they do not have any serious phobias or allergies to the animals present.  Therapy dogs are great for treating dog phobias, however this needs to be the treatment goal, and can take some time. 

Preparation of the Client for Animal-Assisted Therapy
We prepare clients in advance of meeting the animal interventionist so they know what to expect and how to greet the animal safely. We teach clients some simple animal “body language”, basic commands, how to give the animal adequate space when interacting, and how to use treats safely. We also give the clients suggestions and reminders as they are meeting and interacting with the animal. Any behaviours by the client or the animal that could lead to injury are stopped immediately and a different activity is used.

Are the animals safe?

Every effort is made to ensure the safety of everyone involved at W.A.G. Therapeutic Service. All of our therapy animals have had intensive training and been assessed by industry professionals to be behaviourally safe, and all interactions with clients are completely supervised. Parents or caregivers (in the instance of child clients) should discuss with their therapist any pet allergies or prior negative experiences with animals that their child may have had. This program is completely voluntary. In the very unlikely event of scratches or other injuries, staff will apply first aid and immediately inform parents (in the instance of a child client). To date, the program has run successfully with no negative incidents.


There is always a small risk of zoonoses (diseases transferrable between human and animal).  We provide hand sanitiser at every session to control for this, and the animals are kept to a very high standard of grooming and general health (vaccinations, worming, etc.).  Please contact us if you would like more information about zoonoses.


Who owns the animals?

Our therapy animals are owned by, live with, and were trained by, their human counterparts who are also therapists in our Clinic.  All the animals are loved and lead enriched lives.

Humane Education

Many studies have shown a strong link between people's behaviour toward animals and their behaviour toward other people. Children who learn to be kind and sensitive with animals are much more likely to use those same behaviours with other children. W.A.G. Therapeutic Service is involved in teaching children how to have happy, healthy, and caring relationships with the animals in their lives. Dr Michelle is available to speak to school classes or other groups about a variety of animal-related topics including the benefits of human-animal bonds, the similarities of animal emotions and human emotions, and how to meet and greet animals safely. Contact W.A.G. Therapeutic Service for more information.