Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services has long been providing comfort and support to those in need.
The centre has been a one-stop shop for those who need it most with help from homelessness and crisis accommodation, parent and caregiver support and child and youth counselling just a few of the services it provides.
It has also been using the adorable assistance of Gracie the cavoodle for the past year to aid in the counselling process as well as the help of 12 friendly chickens.
It has now just introduced Dusty and Barney, two eight-week-old Maltese-Shih Tzu-cross puppies who have already been making inroads in calming traumatised and distressed children and adults by simply offering unconditional love.
Debbie Jones from the centre said there was clear evidence that the use of animals was beneficial in the healing process.
“There’s a lot of research into trauma and looking at the impact of caring animals in keeping people calm when they are struggling to regulate their own emotions,” she said.
“We’ve had them in the homework group where a boy with additional needs barricaded himself in a room and wouldn’t come out.
“But he came out for the puppies.”
The move to introduce the puppies came after seeing the work of one of the centre’s counsellors Ina George and her dog Gracie.
Ms George uses her two-year-old cavoodle as part of her therapy programs, taking her into schools and homes.
“I’ve had a girl with depression who wouldn’t get out of bed at all,” she said.
“I brought Gracie to her home with me and 15 minutes later she was down at Mcdonald’s having milkshakes, that’s what dogs can do.
“It’s that action of patting that releases endorphins, which is the happy hormone, that has a calming influence on people.
“[Gracie] is so intuitive, I’ve seen her lying on the floor during a counselling session and then when the person starts crying she immediately gets up and puts her head on their lap.”
According to Ms Jones the dogs, who go home with the workers at night, will be used in group work and in one-on-one sessions.
Volunteers are also needed for help with the daily cleaning and grooming of the dogs and chickens.
For more information phone 4987 4674.