career Options, Feedback Needed

I’ve known all of my life that I wanted to help people. Primarily those who are disabled and their families who are finding it hard to cope with the circumstances. I am applying to do a counselling foundation degree with the Open university hopefully in March but I want to get a head start on a few things. I hate being idle and as you all know I currently am out of work but want a job. If I can train doing what I want to be, and if few obstacles come in my way in regard to my sight loss, I can hopefully secure the future I want. Ideally, by the end of all this studying and stuff, I would eventually, after a few years of gaining experience, like to set up a therapy centre for people and their families. I have it in my head already what it would be like but I have a lot of work to do before then. Basically, I’d like to offer counselling sessions for disabled people, their families to cope with worsening situations or a recent ailment. I know from personal experience that animals have helped me gain confidence and so I was considering using animals as part of that therapy. I’d love to use horses eventually but starting off with dogs and smaller animals to help people open up and give them confidence would be my ultimate plan. I’ve found a course to obtain a practical qualification in animal assisted therapy that can be done at home. I haven’t contacted them yet as I would like some feedback. Here’s a scenario for you guys. I’m sitting in an office, having a counselling session with a client, [I don’t see an issue to not be a counsellor as a blind person, correct me if I’m wrong], and my guide dog is lying on the floor beneath my desk. If my client then interacts with the dog and pets the dog and feels more comfortable with the session because of the animal, is that not animal assisted therapy in practice? I asked the question on twitter and have had mixed responses from blind and sighted people alike. Actually, most of the sighted folk thought it was a good idea, so I’m asking you all, can you imagine a reason why I, as a blind person couldn’t be a counsellor who used animals to help their clients through therapy? I’m talking dogs and small animals at first. Eventually, I’d like to use horses if I ever had my own practice but I know, I’m not that delusional that I would then need sighted employees to help but as my role as a therapist, would this make any difference? I’m walking alongside the person riding or brushing a horse, chatting away about things while a sighted person, overseas the safety element? Sure, confidentiality would have to be ensured it was upheld by the other person if they were indeed needed but that’s far off in the future. I wouldn’t limit my sessions to disabled as although we are plentiful, I need to earn a living. I’d also use music as an alternative to animals if I come up against too many barriers. Bear in mind, these animals would belong to me, I would be familiar with them, they wouldn’t be strange and I’ve owned small animals, I.E., rabbits and hamsters my whole life quite easily. I also have been a guide dog handler for almost six years and would consult the Guide Dogs Association to see how they would feel about my dog, under my supervision being used as a therapy dog. So any feedback would be greatly appreciated? Marie

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