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research clarification

  1. Juliann Steinbeigle

    Hello All,

    I am entering the final phase of clarifying my dissertation for counselor education and supervision PH.D Capella University.

    My topic of study is the intuitive communication between a therapist and their animal partner (canine specific)  I am struggling with 3 concepts and would appreciate feedback

    1. Is there intuitive communication between the therapist and animal partner?  

    2. Can this be described as the non-verbal communication developed through the attachment theory?

    3. How or does this have an effect of the therapeutic process?

    Any and all comments would be appreciated.


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  2. Victor Chitic

    HI Juliann

    Please define "intuitive communication". I think that's the starting point if you want to determine if such a thing exists in the relationship between the therapist and dog. It sure is communication and for sure it is non-verbal (at least from the dog's side) :)
    And I think this communication does have tremendous impact on the therapeutic process. Wether this communication is "intuitive", you will have to decide by a clear definition of this  construct. I hope it helps, and I'm looking forward to see what you understand through this term.

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  3. Nancy Parish-Plass

    Hi Juliann - and everyone else in the AAP group!

    As Victor mentioned, you must come up with a working definition of the term. Are you referring to unconscious communication? Or to understanding nonverbal behavior due to past experiences? I wonder of the two may be related. Perhaps one could see that something learned is internalized and then acted upon without thought.


    I would most definitely see a connection between "intuitive communication" and attachment. Off the cuff, I would link the term to internal working models. We act, interact, and form opinions about others based on our interactions with others in the past intuitive communication (according to Bowlby, based on our interactions with our parents). When we act out of these internal working models, we are usually unaware of the origins of our actions. Of course, communication is a type of interaction in which there is a two-way process in which both sides are sending out signals and perceiving them from the other. Our perception of the signals of the other is influenced by these models, and our way of sending out signals is also influenced by these models. I believe that this may also exist between humans and animals in the case that animals have similar experiences, such as having received empathetic care from a caretaker. In a positive experience in growing up, both humans and animals expect that a caretaker (the human) will be gentle and empathetic and playful with the one receiving the caretaking (the animal).


    I would also expand the discussion to include intersubjectivity. That is, in any interaction or relationship, my object world is interacting with your object world. In therapy, Ogden speaks of the analytic third, the place in which the therapist's and the client's worlds meet, both worlds affecting the interaction and communication, and thus where the therapy actually takes place. In AAP, I feel this happening all the time. For instance, my cockatiel Mali has her own object world. This world is made up of me, my family, and my clients. She is ever so confident and comfortable with me and my family, but with her past experiences with my clients, she is automatically suspicious of them (due to some experiences of clients trying to touch her and act quickly around her, which she does not like.)  If I hold the client's hand, slowly draw Mali close to the client's arm (while she is sitting on my other hand), and explain to her softly that she can trust the client, she understands my intent and then is willing to sit on the client's arm. At this point, it is up to the client to create a relationship with Mali. If the client does not comply with her need, then Mali will run/fly away and be less willing the next time to give that client a chance. Mali certainly does not understand my words (that are for the benefit of the client), but she does understand my tone, which may have a calming effect. But past the calming effect, she clearly understands that I am communicating to her that I would like her to sit on the client's arm, and she is willing to comply. There is no force of any type used here. Thus, there is LOTS of communication going on here, which may be defined as intuitive communication.


    Anyway, this is just a start. I can't wait to hear the reactions of the members of this group. Bring in your theoretical knowledge and also your experiences in AAP.



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  4. Linda Chassman

    Hi Juliann,

    I think I get what you are asking about with intuitive communication. And while I agree with the others that you will need to clarify the term, I think there is something that can pass between the animal and human that is a different from other, more concrete forms of communication. For example, I think my dog and I are so attached that he intuitively responds to my need and visa versa. There is not a thinking component for either of us; it's just a type of knowing. 

    Other than a type of nonverbal communication I'm not sure how you would define it. It's definitely not verbal, so by definition is it nonverbal?

    I think your third question is really interesting. And I wonder if the kind of "intimacy" I have with Rupert (my dog) is a positive or negative (or neutral I suppose) on the therapeutic process. I know that I feel happy when Rupert attaches to clients and it fills my heart in a different kind of way. So my initial thought is that sharing the attachment with others allows them to enter into the intimate, or intuitive relationship that is now a triad. I feel a stronger attachment to him when I see his strong relationship with others.

    Interesting study - good luck!

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  5. Nancy Parish-Plass

    Thanks, Linda, for chiming it!

    Juliann - you put you post up a couple of years ago.Do you have an update on your research for us?


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