From ancient cave drawings to modern blockbuster movies, wolves have captured humans' hearts and imaginations for thousands of years, maybe more so than any other animal. What you may not realize is that wolves can provide therapeutic benefits as well. The California Wolf Therapy program has improved the lives of countless children, teens, and adults. At Wolf Connection in Acton, CA, a pack of 30 wolves interacts with both everyday visitors and at-risk groups. The results have been nothing short of miraculous.
The connection between wolves and humans is a powerful human-animal bond, and Wolf Connection has found creative and ingenious ways of making that bond work to the fullest advantage for both the wolves and for the people with whom they come in contact.
The wolves at Wolf Connection are survivors. Many were victims of abuse or neglect, or came from owners who were no longer able to care for them. Some came from areas where local animal regulations prohibit or are otherwise hostile to wolves.
When they come to Wolf Connection, these magnificent creatures are not only given a new home and new family, but they're given a new purpose. Wolf Connection provides these animals a second chance and a newfound life of service.
Wolf Therapy is an eight-week intensive program in which at-risk youth work with the wolves at Wolf Connection. Participants learn about themselves and the wolves and gradually develop bonds with the canines in the pack. Much of the program centers on participants identifying with the troubled history and unstable backgrounds the wolves have come from. Many see themselves, or aspects of their own stories, in the wolves.
The program teaches healthy relationship skills, communication, collaboration, and nonviolence. Wolf Therapy is research-based and physically and psychologically safe for program participants.
Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. According to Wolf Connection, they have had astonishing success rates with Wolf Therapy. Program participants had a 70% increase in high school attendance and college enrollment. They also experience an 80% decrease in negative behaviors.
So, how, exactly, are such success rates accomplished? Through a meticulously designed, comprehensive program that teaches forgiveness and self-confidence, and encourages positive community- and peer-building.
In interacting with the wolves in the Wolf Therapy program, recovering addicts and alcoholics can learn new life and coping skills. Participants see respect and forgiveness in action, and they learn to set healthy boundaries. They also tend to some of the routine upkeep and maintenance work involved in supporting the wolves, so program participants learn to give back too.
"What’s so incredible about these animals is how they can completely change your world in seconds and make a difference that lasts a lifetime," a Wolf Connection volunteer told Psychology Today. "These animals will go right up to [a program participant] and let them know they’re just as important as anyone else."