Meet Millie - employed to help children across Doncaster, Rotherham and North Lincolnshire

editorial image

A loveable year-old puppy is to join a specialist team working to help children who have phobias.

Millie the St Bernard will work with Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust’s grounded research team, to help youngsters overcome their fear of dogs.

New recruit Millie has been enlisted on a research study that tries using One Session Therapy with children who have a specific phobia to dogs, as an alternative to the usual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is carried out over a longer time.

It is estimated that around five to 10 per cent of children have a specific phobia which is severe enough to impact on their everyday life affecting their mental health, wellbeing and development.

Millie is being trained to improve the treatment for children aged between five and 14 years old and who are experiencing a specific phobia of dogs. She will support therapists by helping them to assess how scared a child is of dogs. She has also been used in a training video for therapists who will be providing the One Session Therapy.

Millie’s owner and research programme manager at RDaSH, Rebecca Hargate, said: “Millie has such a pleasant nature and it is great that she is involved in this research. The One Session Therapy involves Millie sitting in the same room as the child so that they can get to know her.

“The aim is for the child to slowly get closer to Millie with the ultimate goal of giving her a pat. We hope that the work Millie is doing and the results from the ASPECT (Alleviating Specific Phobias Experienced by Children Trial) study will make a positive difference to many children’s lives.”

One Session Treatment consists of one three-hour period, using techniques that include the gradual exposure therapy, participant modelling, reinforcement, psycho-education, cognitive challenges and skills training, all shown to be clinically effective in children.