Julian was terrified of dogs.
He’d had a frightening experience with a dog and, even before that, had struggled with anxiety. He quit doing things he enjoyed, like riding his bike, said his mom, Gina. His fears caused him to miss family get-togethers and friends’ birthday parties. Julian was just so scared.
But Julian wasn’t alone. Amanda, a therapist in The Village’s Alexandria, Minn., office, did trauma-focused therapy with Julian. Together they read about dogs, talked about Julian’s fears, and developed coping strategies. They also began exposure therapy. It was a slow process, starting by driving to the home of a friend who owned a dog, but not going inside. A small beginning, but, as weeks passed, Julian made great strides. He progressed to being in the room with the dog to patting the dog on the head to playing outside while the dog was off the leash!
Gina believes that helped lay the groundwork for the family to get their own dog, Oliver. And that took Julian’s progress to a new level, Gina said. Julian says having a dog feels “great.”
The difference now is like “night and day,” Gina said.
“I realized dogs are not evil; they’re pets,” said Julian, now 9. “They’re sweet and kind.”
The Village has changed Gina’s family’s life for the better, she said. “The Village has been amazing with Julian.”
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