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Pat and Henry, the therapy dog

The complete history of how psychotherapy has developed through recent history is way beyond the scope of this page so I suggest that you do a  Google search of Animal Assisted Therapy and Nature Assisted Therapy ( or Ecotherapy, or Green Therapy, or even Terratherapy). I also have some links on my “Resources” page to help point you in interesting directions of study, you might check them out.

Over the last 30 years a significant amount of empirical research has validated the use of animals and nature in the therapeutic treatment of depression, anxiety, attachment, ADHD, and many other mental health issues. Again, check my “Resources” page for links to other sites regarding information on these therapeutic modalities.

About twelve years ago, almost by accident, Pat began to use Animal Assisted Therapy  and Nature in therapy as a treatment option for select clients and discovered that the modality achieved significant results in working with older children and teens– as well as their families. He has worked with Henry, the therapy dog and a variety of farm animals as well as nature herself. 

Observing and participating in a relationship with the animals and being in a natural setting provide a unique opportunity for transforming experiences which can then be processed and integrated into one’s inner life and relationships.

This process of treatment is another way of talking about encouraging the development of emotional intelligence, which is very different from intellect which we measure with traditional IQ testing. The reality is that none of us can do much to increase our basic IQ, but emotional intelligence is very fluid and grows through life experiences if given the right kind of opportunities. In my humble opinion (and experience) being outdoors in the midst of natural beauty and animals provides a rich environment for expanding emotional intelligence for both young and not so young.

Dr. Baker and his kindergarten teacher wife live on the remaining hundred acres or so of her family farm which has been in the same family for over a hundred years. The farm is located at the southern edge of Jenks, Oklahoma and has been recognized as a Centennial Farm by the Oklahoma Historical Society. To qualify for this honor the farm must have been consistently worked by the same family for a hundred years. In the last generation the farm family was also named as Tulsa County Farm Family of the Year. 

Pat and Gayle supervise  a small cattle operation, and (along with the help from a flock of about 125 free-range chickens) , they provide natural non chemical, hormone free eggs to a small group of customers, family and friends. They also  garden and have several medium size orchards with apple, peach, pear, plum, hardy figs, paw-paws, elderberries,  and thousands of native blackberry plants. They are also very glad that Mother Nature has gifted them with over 200 native pecan trees throughout the property and too many persimmon trees to count. 

Their “menagerie” consists of Texas Longhorn and Angus cattle, a thirty plus year old horse, 20+ donkeys, alpacas, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, guineas, and the assorted barn cats and livestock guardian dogs that come with a farm. They used to have emu’s and ostrich as well as a guanaco and muntjac.

The treehouse is a recent addition to the farm. Pat built it to provide an environment which would help his early childhood educator wife in her weekend workshops introducing children to nature. www.countrycamps.com (shameless plug). It has been a real serendipity to discover that in addition to being a creative place to learn and play, the treehouse also provides an excellent setting for relaxation, meditation, and quiet conversation. 

Traditional psychotherapy uses the context of the outpatient office and the therapeutic relationship to provide a holding environment which can make working with complex psychological issues possible. What a terrific experience it has been to realize that our rural environment and the treehouse can provide a natural holding environment for therapy in addition to the more traditional outpatient office setting. Workshops are in the works for the late fall\winter 2009 to utilize the farm and treehouse setting.

For five years Pat was appointed by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to serve as a director of the Tulsa County Conservation District. Just prior to his time on the board Pat and Gayle decided to set aside a fifteen acre conservation area on their property with the help of a Wildlife Habitat grant from the state of Oklahoma and the federal government. The fifteen acre set aside is a mixed habitat  composed of a four-acre pond, wetlands and riparian area, native grass and upland woods. They also built, maintain, and monitor a one and a half mile Eastern Bluebird trail with over 25 boxes.

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