Doplhin assisted therapy. What is it?
The dolphin assisted therapy is an effective rehabilitation program designated for physically or mentally disabled persons as well as for persons suffering from neurological diseases and/or having experienced psycho-emotional traumas. It helps to improve their well being and develops their cognitive and socialization skills. The dolphin assisted therapy is not a therapeutic choice and cannot replace traditional therapeutic services.
The dolphin assisted therapy was officially recognized as a method of wellness by Order No. V-374 of the Minister of Health of Lithuania dated 15 April 2013 (hygiene norm HN 133:2013 "Services of psycho-emotional and physical education provided in dolphinariums. General health and safety requirements").
In the Lithuanian Sea Museum, the dolphin assisted therapy was introduced in 2002 and in 2015 the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Centre was established there. 20 years ago, the founder of the dolphin assisted therapy David E. Nathanson, a neuro-psychologist and behaviour investigator, found out that disabled children react more positively to the interaction with dolphins rather than other animals. During the therapy sessions, dolphins interact with children and adults using toying elements, allowing them to relax better. Due to this, information is easier grasped and memorized, attention is better focussed, psycho-social behaviour and communication elements are developed and children's psycho-emotional condition is improved. Dolphins are very curious animals. The essence of the therapy lies in dolphins' capability to develop and maintain toying behaviour longer than any other mammal. Such fact proves their high level of emotional behaviour. David E. Nathanson systematized practical information and developed a concept of dolphin assisted therapy that enhances positive factors of humans. In cases of grave communication disturbances, the very encounter with a dolphin performs the function of an ‘ice-breaker’, which stimulates positive changes in psycho-social and psycho-emotional contacts and leads to further therapeutic activities.
Interaction with dolphins ensures positive emotions, therefore dolphin assisted therapy is suitable for everyone. Dolphins have incredible abilities to feel emotions and understand gestures. They ask for attention by addressing people, playfully throwing a ball or splashing water. This type of therapy is effective not only for children who are unsociable and not inclined to communicate, but for their family members as well. Parents watching their child interacting with dolphins get to know him/her better, thus a new stronger and closer mutual relation is formed.
The dolphin assisted therapy is applied all over the world for patients with autism, Down syndrome, haemophilia, cancer, fibrosis, congenital heart diseases, cerebral palsy, arthritis, diabetes, depression, AIDS, drug addiction or alcoholism. Though, irrespective of global practice, it is necessary to assess the possible negative effect for the participant (due to animal behaviour, cold water, salinity or possible allergic reactions) in every individual case. Almost in all countries the dolphin assisted therapy is not applied at all and/or applied using extra safety measures (e.g. without getting into the water) for patients with epilepsy, fragile bone system, stoma(s), open wounds or Down syndrome. Also, other animals could make noise during sessions that could scare or otherwise worry patients sensible to noise.
How are dolphin assisted therapy sessions being conducted?
A disabled child and his/her family is supervised by the team of specialists: a dolphin trainer, a social worker, a psychologist and a kinesitherapist. Usually 10 sessions are arranged complemented by other methods of therapy, such as art therapy, light therapy, music therapy and kinesitherapy. A patient interacts with dolphins 30 minutes daily. Additional programs are provided if the entire course of the dolphin assisted therapy sessions (10 days) is ordered. Otherwise, additional programs can be bought separately. Additional programs are selected taking into consideration the patient's needs. The following additional programs are available: a specialist's consultation, Sherborne developmental movement, video analysis, classic kinesitherapy, massage, sensory integration techniques, music therapy or relaxation techniques. Special rooms for resting are available in the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Centre. The Dolphin Assisted Therapy Centre became a home for some reptiles - geckos, iguanas and turtles - who participate in the therapeutic activities as well. Our aim is to support the whole family, as it is believed that the disease of one member of the family tends to increase stress in the whole family.
The dolphin assisted therapy is a program of psycho-emotional and physical development for children and adults. The sessions take place in a pool adapted for the patient, where various accessories and aids are used. The therapy in water has beneficial effect on psychological interaction with emotions, development of tactile and vestibular systems and perception of a body as a certain system.
The purpose of the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Centre is to develop wellness, research and cognitive activities relating to the dolphin assisted therapy and other types of therapy that meet social, cultural, educational and health improvement needs of the society while ensuring animal well-being. Priority is given to families facing severe disability, psycho-emotional and psycho-social problems.
The Dolphin Assisted Therapy Centre provides holistic support for families. Special rooms for various activities are available there.
The work of the team of the Centre (a psychologist, a social worker, a kinesitherapist and dolphin trainers) is based on three principles:
- the principle of animal well-being;
- the principle of holistic approach - the therapy process is orientated towards seeking a physical and psychological sense of coherence with nature and oneself. Attention is paid to the whole family, not only to the patient alone;
- the principle of ethics - privacy, confidentiality, respect to the human rights and dignity, honesty, responsibility, unconditional acceptance, etc.
In order to ensure the proper quality of services provided in the Dolphin Assisted Centre, the specialists apply recognized techniques ensuring actual results (Watsu/Tantsu (intense relaxation technique used in water), Sherborne developmental movement, sensory integration, TEACHH (structured education program), OIVA (interaction with environment model), HOP (hanging out program) and intense interactions). The employees of the Centre continuously participate in various training programs in Lithuania and abroad. The carried out scientific research proves that application of such techniques and/or models significantly improves the quality of life of the disabled people and facilitates their social integration.
Aditional registration for dolphin assisted therapy performed during October, November, December, January and February. One session fee for one person is 160 Eur, for two persons 200 Eur. Register: email@example.com
Regular registration to the Dolphin Assisted Therapy is closed from 16th of May, 2016. All Application forms sent after 16th of May (due to the post stamp) is not going to be registered. Application forms by email are not accepted.
Those wishing to participate in the dolphin assisted therapy sessions should provide a completed application form (in Lithuanian, English or Russian). For application form, see: www.muziejus.lt
The completed application form should be sent by post to:
The Lithuanian Sea Museum
Smiltynės St. 3, Klaipėda, LT 93100
Dr. Brigita Kreivinienė
EUR 80 for one session.
Usually 10 sessions are arranged.
The contact of employees of the Dolphin assisted therapy department
The Head of the Department: Dr. Brigita Kreivinienė
+370 46 46 10 10, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Specialist Vida Miškinė,
+370 46 41 62 94, +370 659 21 928, email@example.com
Specialist Deividas Žadeikis
+370 659 21 928, firstname.lastname@example.org
Specialist Vaidotas Kabalinas
+370 659 21 928, email@example.com
Specialist Lina Birutė Bortkevičiūtė
+370 659 21 928, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents' comments after dolphin assisted therapy sessions
About the son (a five-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder): "The child started communicating with his peers, became more curious and started talking and drawing. He is more affectionate, stereotypical movements are not so frequent, he stays focussed for a longer period of time."
About the son (a fifteen-year-old boy with cerebral palsy): "The speech has improved, logical thinking is observed, he has become more curious, orientation has improved, he wants to stand up and make steps with the help of a walker. After the sessions, the child's body has become more relaxed, he grabs things more easily."
About the daughter (a nine-year-old girl with an autism spectrum disorder): "The girl's appetite and sleep improved after several sessions. She has become more calm and is not so much afraid of new situations, like earlier. Upon returning home she embraced and kissed her little brother (she had never done that before). The most significant change is the fact that she uses more sounds and syllables in her daily routine and tries to mimic."