Hello! My name is Molly Bochenek. I am a Licensed Independent Social Worker. I began working for The Learning Spectrum in January 2018. From early on I knew that I wanted my career to be in mental health. I decided out of all the choices getting my masters degree in social work was the way I wanted to go. After receiving my MSW, I have had the opportunity to work with many different populations/locations: a dialysis unit, residential treatment center for children and adolescents, a children's hospital, a college campus counseling center, private practice, the US embassy in Lima Peru, and finally TLS.
My interest/love of animals has been present for as long as I can remember. My first experiences with the human animal bond were with my own pets. Taking care of them, playing with them and of course their empathy were important throughout my life. My first unofficial experience with animal assisted therapy was when I worked at the college. I say it was unofficial because my dog was not trained and it started as a happy accident
Herbert (my English Bulldog) came to work with me one day and I had more students stop to talk to me than I ever had before. One of my most difficult students came that day. They were always very angry and frustrated but Herbert gave my student something else to focus on. Even though my student did not want to touch or to have Herbert touch them, they were able to talk calmly and express their frustrations/worries in a constructive way. From then on, they preferred if Herbert was with me when we met. I have watched my own children with our family pets and how they have found understanding and comfort with them.
Sadly Herbert is no longer with us. Our current family pets are Blaze the hedgehog. He has made some guest appearances at all 3 schools and is still requested by some. We also have Lulu, our boxer that we adopted from Peru. She speaks both Spanish and English. Our newest fur family member is Crash, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. My hope is that Crash will grow into his paws so he stops crashing into things and into a great therapy partner.
My fascination with alpacas started during our time living in Peru. Alpacas and llamas are everywhere. Many of them are “wild” but many are also trained to be docile to take pictures and greet tourists. I was not involved with the beginning process of Learning 4 Life Farm but when they started talking more about the therapy alpacas, my interest increased. As the date neared for the animals coming, the focus shifted to how they were going to use the animals in therapy. This is where I came in. I started with just researching animal assisted therapy, then the malpractice insurance, then the training and finally the billing. After all the research, I was happy to take on the therapy aspect of the alpacas.
I am starting the training program through the Animal Assisted Therapy Program of Colorado. Once I am finished with my classes, I will receive a Certificate of Education in Animal Assisted Psychotherapy. I am just beginning my first class, The Human Animal Bond!
We’re so excited to bring alpacas to Learning 4 Life Farm this spring. We plan to provide animal assisted alpaca therapy at all three TLS school sites beginning in August 2023, weekly throughout the school year for each site. Stay tuned for more details!
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