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Nikki Woller, LCSW, CFLE

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Service Animals Help Children with Mental Health Problems


Service animals are used in a variety of manners. Kellie, a seven pound maltichon, helps her six year old human friend who lives with bipolar illness manage her day.

Boca Raton, FL, November 27, 2007 --(PR.com)-- A dog in the grocery store? Who would do such a thing? Well, it happens in Boca Raton every weekend.

Just like any other family, Brett and Nikki Woller are at the community grocery store doing the weekly shopping just about every weekend. They, like other families have their two children along with them. But, unlike other families they also bring along the family dog.

"A lot of people stare at us; regular people just don’t understand it,” says Nikki Woller, who is also a pediatric clinical social worker in the community. So, why would they bring the dog to the store?

Kellie is a psychiatric service animal in training. She is a white, fluffy, seven pound maltichon. She belongs to the Woller’s six year old little girl who lives with bipolar illness. Kellie goes everywhere with Allison to help intervene when Allison is feeling stressed out or emotional.

“There is a definite emotional difference in Allison when she has the dog with her and when she does not, it is really unbelievable” says Brett Woller.

Brett and Nikki are heavily involved in the mental health community. Nikki treats chronic mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression, behavioral disturbances and anxiety in adults and in children. Brett runs the Boca Raton Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance meetings. They are committed to helping others recover from their emotional illnesses. Service animals are just one way that they have chosen to do that.

Service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are not considered pets. They are allowed access to all public places that their human counterparts are allowed, even the grocery store.

“We have had our local health inspector called three times about Kellie being in the store,” says Woller. “The manager of the store where we do our shopping is so kind about it, he really deals with a lot of complaints when were in the store.”

While the use of service animals for psychiatric use is up and coming, the possibilities are endless. These dogs are used for anxiety relief, mania detection, depression, environmental assessment for psychosis, tactile stimulation and in children, they can also be used to help improve self esteem and communication.

“Allison went several years without speaking to people, now when she is stopped about her dog, she makes eye contact with others and is able to answer their questions. It is a huge difference” says Nikki, “ An incredible one.”

Selection of your dog is important. Not every dog is suited for service work. They have to have a wonderful temperment, be healthy, and a suitable match for the person that they are assisting. Training is important, and can be done at home but most people use the assistance of a local dog trainer to get started.

"There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with having a service animal, says Nikki, but we see the pay off in our little girl. "

For more information about this topic or the Woller's contact Nikki Woller at 561-706-1004 or by email at nikkiwoller @ aol.com

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Contact Information
Nikki Woller, LCSW, CFLE
561-706-1004
Contact
www.perctr.com

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