OBERLIN — As a clinical social worker specializing in post traumatic stress disorder, Jane Miller noticed the incredible effect her golden retriever Umaya had upon her clients in the 1990s.
The bond between a human being and a dog that’s eager to please could be remarkable Miller noticed.
Miller became certified in 2004 as a Therapy and Service Animal Behavioral Consultant.
She focused her attention on training psychiatric service dogs for those who need them.
Clients who needed to tackle issues such as compulsive overeating were hooked up with shelter dogs that were carefully trained to interrupt negative behavior.
And those who suffered debilitating nightmares were paired with dogs trained to respond to flailing arms and moans with doggy paws and kisses.
“The dogs know they’re doing the right thing,” Miller said of her caring canine friends.
She said people found new resources in themselves when they were teamed with animals trained to help them.
“I have clients who never left their house before getting their service dogs,” she said. “The dogs help them navigate the world.”
In 2010, her book called “Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives,” was published telling the story of how dogs can benefit survivors of emotional illnesses, from eating disorders and anxiety to agoraphobia, depression and post traumatic stress.
The book published by New Page Books has since been released in paperback.
Miller was honored last week as Social Worker of the Year for Region 2 of the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
It’s all very exciting work, said Miller, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology from Oberlin College and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Case Western Reserve University.
She works in private practice as a licensed psychotherapist/clinical social worker, with a particular interest in holistic modalities of healing.
Miller, who appeared in the PBS program “Health Visions: Animals As Healers,” continues to work to educate others about the legal, ethical and practical criteria of working with psychiatric service dogs.
She has lectured about her work, ranging from The Cleveland Clinic to The International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants Conference.
Miller also assisted the Veterans Administration, which was looking into the benefits of service dogs for soldiers returning from combat with post traumatic stress disorder.
Miller said she prefers working with shelter dogs of various sizes and breeds. She said it is a joy to help clients choose the proper animal that can give them a new lease on life.
Dog training is reinforced with treats and soon becomes second nature, she said.
For example, some people might benefit from being guided to their vehicles in a parking lot, she said.
The psychiatric service dogs are trained to sniff out the right car with a dab of peanut butter, she said.
“Guess what, eventually they find their car even without the peanut butter,” Miller said.
Getting help from furry therapists
Jane Miller’s book, “Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives,” helps readers get answers to the following questions:
- Do I have to be disabled to get a service dog?
- Can my service dog go everywhere with me?
- Where can I get a Psychiatric Service Dog?
- Does my dog have to be purebred, a certain size, etc.?
- Does my dog have to start training as a puppy?
- What do I need to look for in the dog when choosing one?
- How do I find out if the trainer is qualified?
- How will my dog mitigate the effects of my disability?
- What are some tasks that my dog can be trained to do?
- Are there places to go for financial assistance?
Send your Wellington and Oberlin news to Cindy Leise, 329-7245 or email@example.com.