Meet Mason our therapy dog

For some patients, the idea of a reciprocal and rewarding relationship with another human being is totally alien - previous relationships with other people have been difficult and often harmful experiences.

That’s where Mason comes in. He’s the friendly, playful therapy dog at the William Morris Centre, hub of the Forensic Psychological Therapies Service at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.

Part of the London Pathways Partnership (LLP), animal assisted therapy, as part of the trauma informed service for Forensic and Prison services, is being used with patients who are starting psychological therapy work at Oxleas NHS.

Mason joins the sessions, interacting with patient and therapist, all the while, building a trust and a safe space where therapy work can then begin. He works on a one-to-one basis and gives patients a sense of non-judgemental company and time to reflect, be open and honest.

"I could be homeless, or a CEO, he treats me just the same"

As one patient touchingly put it: “No matter who I am he’s not looking at my history and what happened before, he’s not looking at my past experiences. All he cares about is whether I will make a fuss of him and play.”

There is something very powerful about the unconditional and accepting nature of dogs, it’s immediately obvious when you enter the room and meet Mason. He’s friendly, pleased to see you and wants to initiate play. Conversation starts to flow as the inevitable questions about him begin.

"Mason helps break down any uncomfortable barriers or silences in an instant"

As Lawrence Mack, Service Director of Forensic and Prison Services, at Oxleas NHS, puts it: "Mason brings a different focus, he helps deflect what could otherwise be quite an intense process.

"He’s a talking point too and helps break down any uncomfortable barriers or silences in an instant.

"The conversation starts about Mason and before you know it, things have moved on. There’s something very powerful about that."

It’s very hard not to be persuaded by the benefits of having Mason present.

Research increasingly supports the use of therapy animals in forensic settings, and with Mason’s gentle, fun-loving disposition, it’s easy to see why.

Meet Mason here:

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Published on 17th May 2021