May 082018

Anette Dielmann and Kathy Christina Pithan observe that the effectiveness of TA is very much evident in relationships – with ourselves, our clients and systems. In their workshop in Berlin on 28th July 2017, Anette and Kathy demonstrated how they make use of the special relationship competence of animals in their practice, specifically horses and dogs. Thinking back to this workshop almost a year later, snapshots of memory form in my mind’s eye. I remember what had meaning for me on that day.

We are sitting in a circle, Kathy’s two dogs in the middle, greeting participants, accepting cuddles and pats. They go very close to some people, keep more distance from others.

A woman wants to explore her behaviour in relationships. She chooses a dog to do this with. The exercise: connect with the dog, ask her (the dog) to get onto a shiny carpet of silver foil and stay on it for a set time (a few seconds). The client connects strongly with the animal, speaking softly, there are many words, cooing, cuddling, patting. After a while, they begin to walk around together, the dog eager at first, the human very caring, looking big and somewhat hesitant. When the woman steps onto the carpet, the dog does not follow, seems unsure. The exercise looks difficult. I feel tension in the room. The facilitators ask the client how she feels. I recognise TA concepts in their questions. The client reflects with the coaches around “who is OK in this relationship and who is not”, “who is taking care of who”, “how is responsibility held”, “how does discounting self and others show up typically”.

The facilitators end the exercise when the client has recognised her own patterns, decided what she wants to work on developing for herself – in her own context. Everyone relaxes. The dog plays on the silver carpet.

The aim was not for the client to become an expert in getting a dog to do what she wants. It was to support the client in becoming more of an expert on herself.

How coaching sessions with direct feedback from animals (responding to all that is present in the moment) can help increase a client’s self-awareness, clarity and confidence can be described theoretically at length. For me, experiencing this phenomenon has had the most profound impact.

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