Success Story: Dr. Owen J. Garrett
Dr. Owen J. Garrett and his wife, Shirley, met Cesar at the Cesar Millan Live show in Vancouver this past November. As a psychologist for 18 years, Dr. Garrett has worked in the area of rehabilitation, particularly with people who have suffered a disability or impairment. Upon meeting Cesar, Dr. Garrett revealed that he has used many of Cesar’s methods in his practice of human psychology. Cesar became interested in Dr. Garrett’s work and wanted to share this “unconventional” success story with you.
By way of introduction to your readers, I would like to explain my background and training. I obtained my Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario in 1992. Most of my clinical training and practice has been in the area of rehabilitation and working with people who have suffered disability and impairment either through physical injury (e.g. pain from car accidents/industrial accidents), medical illness (e.g. Diabetes) or have a stress related disorder (e.g. depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder). My work experience includes having been a Clinical Director of the Columbia Centre for Rehabilitation and Pain Management as well as a psychological consultant to a variety of other Rehab and Pain management clinics in the lower mainland of British Columbia. For five years, I also participated on a committee under the auspices of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the purpose of which was to provide educational workshops to physicians on the diagnosis and management of Chronic Pain Syndrome. Most recently, in 2008, I entered into my own private practice, which I named: Active Insights Health Care.
As most of my work is with people who are trying to recover from some form of disability, helping them to “reactivate” can be quite challenging. Fear, anxiety and loss of self-confidence are often among the biggest barriers people have to overcome. One of the methods that has been most effective is having them work with a personal trainer for exercise and fitness reconditioning. This helps the person to get more in touch with their body in a way that can boost self confidence and provide them with a sense of personal mastery and competence. Probably the best thing that happened as a result of using personal trainers is that I ended up working with Shirley, who then later became my wife!
My search for strategies and exercises that can help people feel more confident and competent led me to Cesar. I had been watching his television program for several months and was quite impressed by his approach with people. One of the things that I really liked was how he would always tell the person to stand tall and walk while staying “calm and assertive.”
I had one person who had panic attacks in grocery stores and was afraid to go into them. I told her that the technique I was about to use with her came from the Dog Whisperer and she was quite intrigued. I told her that the next time she was in a grocery store and pushing the cart if she felt anxious and panicky, she should firmly grasp the handle of the cart, stand tall, and repeat to herself “calm and assertive.” She came back a week later quite pleased as she did exactly that and was quite surprised how much it helped her to calm the anxiety.
Handling a dog has turned out to be a very effective learning experience for people. One woman who both Shirley and I were working with was extremely anxious and self-conscious. As part of her fitness walks, Shirley started to bring our Labrador Retriever, Hooper, along and had the woman hold the leash. She seemed to immediately brighten at this and there seemed to be a shift in her energy as she became more relaxed and self-confident. I think that while the woman benefited from a sense of being in charge the dog was, in a sense, also acting as a role model and leader for the woman as to how to be calm (we have a pretty relaxed dog!).
I often joke with patients that to find the balance in their energies they have to find their “Inner Lab” (or whatever their favorite dog is!). Even though people find this somewhat humorous they all seem to instinctively know what I am talking about, which is good, as I don’t want them leaving the office thinking, “Boy what a weird psychologist!”
Cesar has often emphasized being in the present moment as a way of finding your calm and assertive self. I have found mindfulness meditation an important practice in my own work to help people attain this type of focused and calm energy. For those patients who have dogs, I have found it helpful to incorporate animal based imagery into my work asking people, for example, to imagine the face of their dog as a way of helping them find their own calm and peaceful energy. This type of imagery can also serve as a powerful connection for people trying to find inner strength, power, and dignity. I had one person who would imagine the face of a determined German Shepherd when she tried to connect with and nurture her own inner feelings of strength, resiliency and sense of leadership.
There is a powerful bond and connection between dog and human that can be transformative when you are able to tap into the energy flow that exists between us.
Dr. Owen J. Garrett, R. Psych.
Active Insights Health Care
Surrey, British Columbia