5Q Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Gayle Phillips,
Centacare Ballarat

Helen Diamond,
Centacare Ballarat

Friday 23 November 23 2018

Time: 9:35am – 9:55am

Room: Mossman Ballroom

5Q Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

The healing can begin with therapy dogs


In our work with separated families we have become aware of the importance of providing all family members with the opportunity to engage with services and begin their healing process. This can be difficult, in particular when new partners are introduced to the family and feelings of resentment can escalate. Being able to offer family therapy is a great advantage to our team and one that many families take up once they have been able to work through their individual feelings of grief and loss.

Several years ago we trained staff in a drumbeat program as a way of diversifying what we offered and being able to engage with clients through methods that weren’t talk based. This program has been extremely successful and clients report feeling more able to connect when the focus is on a drum rather than them.

Helen Diamond and Gayle Phillips spoke with us about their desire to become trained pet therapists as a way of further enhancing our reach to clients suffering distress. Centacare were aware of the research behind such training and Helen and Gayle were supported, along with their dogs, Bailey and Teddy, to complete this course.

Since completing their training in 2017 there have been a number of disengaged clients who have been able to connect with support through their connection to Bailey and Teddy. Gayle and Helen share heart-warming stories of angry clients, severally depressed teenagers and highly anxious children (to name a few) engaging in therapy with them as a result of the dogs being included.

During their intake call on the phone, clients are asked whether they would like to meet Teddy and Bailey with their counsellor and it is often during the very first meeting in reception that the immediate change can occur.


Gayle Phillips has extensive experience working within the welfare sector as a case manager with a variety of vulnerable client groups. However, her true passion has been discovered following her studies as a family counsellor and family therapist. As a member of the Centacare team Gayle utilises a number of techniques to enhance her engagement with families and is always looking to develop her repertoire. Along with her love for animals and in particular her Golden Retriever Bailey, Gayle became aware of the ability of animals to bring a sense of calm and connection into the counselling room when clients are experiencing distress. Gayle was very aware that talk based therapy doesn’t always provide the means for connection. Gayle and Bailey became accredited pet therapists in 2017 and since this time have achieved amazing results for a variety of clients who were reluctant to engage with services.