Melbourne City Mission

Animal Assisted Therapy

 

Melbourne City Mission is one of Victoria’s oldest, largest and most diverse ‘for purpose’ community service organisations. We work alongside people at risk, providing individualised supports that disrupt trajectories into disadvantage and enable people to lead positive lives.

We are known nationally and internationally for our expertise in youth homelessness. We are the largest funded provider of youth homelessness services in Victoria and our flagship is Frontyard Youth Services. Frontyard is the cornerstone of the Victorian homelessness service system and an important interface with mainstream and specialist services including out of home care, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, disability, family violence and youth justice.

The Collier Charitable Fund has supported Melbourne City Mission for over 35 years and most recently supported the growth of our holistic therapeutic programs at Frontyard. These programs use alternative tools, such as music and animals, to engage vulnerable youth and create a therapeutic outlet for emotional and psychological recovery.

In 2018, Collier’s support of the music therapy program enabled young people to escape their current crisis and share positive experiences, building their confidence and social connections. It was found that vulnerable young people can ‘hide’ behind music to articulate their experiences and needs that are often too confronting to express face-to-face to youth workers.

The music therapy program aimed to:

  • Build self-worth, confidence, sense of identity, social connection and overall wellbeing of young people
  • Provide a long-term connection with young people in a fun, safe environment
  • Provide an escape to complex issues for young people
  • Provide relation, calmness and clarity to reduce anxiety and form coping mechanisms

A qualified music therapist provided weekly group music sessions, drop-in sessions, mindfulness workshops and 1 on 1 sessions by referral. The program proved effective in connecting with vulnerable young people as it is an easy access point for those experiencing crisis to engage with services. Many young people identified very strongly with the program and took the lead in running some of the weekly group sessions; one designed an 8-week course for other young people at Frontyard, another developed a 5-week song writing program and delivered this from the Aardvark Centre (a community based music facility for young people facing adversity).

In 2019, the Collier Charitable Fund is supporting MCM’s Animal Assisted Therapy program. This type of therapy has been running for four years at Frontyard and was the subject of University of Melbourne research on the effectiveness of animal assisted therapy. The research found three major areas of benefit; decreasing negative emotions, inducing calming behaviour and increasing social interactions and relationships. One participant noted; “the dogs bring happiness and they are comforting. It makes you forget your problems.”

MCM is incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of the Collier Charitable Fund. It has enabled us to embed holistic therapies in our service offering and positively impact the lives of vulnerable young people across Victoria.