By Dan Coles
This therapist uses a squadron of more than 40 alpacas to de-stress her clients dealing with trauma and anxiety.
Victoria Barrett, 55, from Worcester, has been a trained counsellor for more than 20 years – but last year decided to add a herd of furry helpers to her therapy business.
And she has been inundated with requests for help after word spread of her 43-strong alpaca gang, who help counsel clients using Camelidynamics.
Amazingly, Victoria is even able to pair up specific alpacas who she thinks will match each client – because their unique personalities make them ideal for helping trauma survivors.
Victoria said: “The very nature of an alpaca, being a prey animal and fear driven, is that you’re always working to gain their trust and confidence.
“There’s a lot of synergy between working with alpacas and working with a person who has been through trauma, the techniques are the same and they can resonate with each other.
“I found this philosophy called Camelidynamics, it’s the least intrusive, most positively reinforcing way of working with alpacas – I’ve studied this for 10 years.
“We have lots of different clients, one was a girl who had suffered childhood and adulthood abuse, she was scared and reserved but after one session with the alpacas she said it made her smile in a way she had not for years.
“We went out with two children and their mother, her youngest who was autistic, and she said she had not seen him that happy in a long time, she had tears in her eyes.”
Victoria Barret started simplyalpaca 10 years ago, she has a total of 43 alpacas that live on her farm and over the last three years has developed.
Camelid Connection – which helps council anyone who is struggling with trauma, anxiety or stress.
Victoria said: “It’s the feel and touch, as well as the aura of the alpacas that helps, when an alpaca isn’t familiar with another person it will act the same as a person who is uncomfortable.
“Together, they form a relationship based on trust, using the same methods a therapist uses with a client to gain trust in the consultation room.
“Being a qualified therapist, I already had the tools to help people, but through Camelidynamics, I have found a way in which through the alpacas I can offer help that is as constructive and helpful as general therapy.
“Alpacas are fear driven, so how you work with them is the same as you would a person, particularly with anxiety or any type of trauma.
“We allow people to match the animal’s feelings with their own and that creates a relationship or a safe place for people to release their feelings.”
Victoria explained that working with animals, and alpacas in particular is a very useful way to explore sensitive, and difficult to approach feelings that people might not trust to tell another person.
Victoria said: “The alpacas don’t judge, it doesn’t matter how you look, sound or act, they will always be attentive to someone who has taken the time to form a connection with them.
“This is one of the reasons they work so well, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to come across or what anyone is going to think.
“It really is a level of support that is hard to find in a person, and especially hard for someone who has had their trust broken.
Victoria spent 30 years working with West Midlands Ambulance service and has been a qualified counsellor for 20 years. She has dealt with people who have suffered trauma in some context for much of her professional life.
Victoria: “Alpacas offer unconditional support, and together we offer structured, step-by-step methods that gradually give people their confidence, and self-worth back.
“I’m proud to say we’re the only place in the country that offers this unique combination of therapy and camelydynamics.