Joanna Posey and Smokey.

Joanna Posey has been involved with Therapy Animals of Utah since before she even had an animal qualified to serve with her.

When Joanna rescued her dog, Smokey, she found her therapy animal. Animal-assisted therapy involves animals as a tool of therapy, geared toward improving patients’ emotional, cognitive or social function.

Joanna is a teacher at ScenicView Academy in Provo, which works with adults with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and/or learning disabilities to improve function and skill levels. After bringing Smokey to the office so she could get paperwork done, she saw how the students responded to the animal and how he responded to them.

Smokey is a vital part of Mellow Mondays at ScenicView Academy in Provo.

After completing Smokey’s training and certification, Joanna started bringing Smokey to the school on a regular basis, starting with day camps.

“When students engage with animals, you can see their anxiety level go down,” Joanna says. “The animals help teach the students emotional regulation.”

Joanna and Smokey work together with other therapy animals and handlers to illustrate social behavior many of the students haven’t understood before.

Handlers remain next to therapy animals at all times and are vital in providing a safe, effective experience for the patient and the animal.

This is one of 11 stories featured in the partnership section of Utah Valley Magazine. Read all the stories here.

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