Monthly Article Archives: May 2005

Puppies and Prisons: Programs for Caring and DignityRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

In many of my writings, including those authored with my colleague Sam Goldstein, I have highlighted the importance of providing children and adults with opportunities to contribute to the welfare of others. The belief that our actions are having a positive impact is a significant feature of resilience, adding meaning and satisfaction to our lives. I first became impressed with the far-reaching benefits of helping others while serving as the principal of a school in a locked door unit of a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents in the 1970s. As one might surmise, many of these youth displayed violent behavior and were themselves victims of abuse. I discovered that offering these youngsters activities in which they assisted others (e.g., reading to younger children, serving as a “light monitor” to ensure that all of the lights in the school were working properly, helping newly admitted patients adjust to the hospital setting) proved very therapeutic. I was pleasantly surprised to observe that not only were they willing to engage in these activities, but they did so with enthusiasm, resulting in a decrease in antisocial behavior and an increase in their sense of dignity and their willingness to cooperate. I felt that

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