Meet Mocha and Latte - Turning Point’s therapeutic bunnies

2 May 2023

This year, Wellington House introduced two therapy bunnies named Mocha and Latte. We talk with Addiction Medicine Specialist Noel Plumley to discuss the unique benefits these fluffy creatures provide to both staff and clients.

Mocha and Latte

Introducing Mocha and Latte

When Noel Plumley and his wife were living in Western Australia 20 years ago, they used to own rabbits.

One day when they were sitting in their backyard watching their antics, they came up with the idea to introduce these adorable animals into the Next Step Alcohol and Drug Service detox unit to help patients.

“We did an A- B-A study on the rabbits which demonstrated the benefits of having them in the detox unit, such as reduced night sedation and a general feeling of tranquillity in the unit. A poster was presented at an APSAD conference and many people were interested in introducing rabbits into their treatment units”.

Seeing the benefits in Western Australia, Noel proposed the idea to introduce therapeutic bunnies at Wellington House.

“The idea was received positively by staff. The rabbit introduction was delayed a bit by COVID, but we were eventually able to get them this year and so far things have gone well.”

Benefits of therapeutic bunnies

Both staff and clients at Wellington House have noticed the benefits of having Mocha and Latte around. 

“There has been a noticeable calmness across the whole ward since Mocha and Latte arrived. They are soft, calm, sociable, quiet and non-judgemental.”

“Detox can be stressful for both patients and nurses, and having the rabbits around helps reduce the stress for everyone, which in turn decreases the possibility of patients discharging early.”

Mocha and Latte have been especially beneficial for patients who have pets.

“Patients like having a pet in recovery because they may have a pet at home so it substitutes for that loss. It also gives them something to take care of while they are recovering, which can help improve the patient’s morale.”

With Mocha and Latte being such a success already, Noel is planning to get more feedback for a further poster presentation.

“I’ve had feedback from one patient who really benefited from the bunnies. The patient was quite distressed during a group session so the nurse took them out and let them sit with the bunnies. Within ten minutes they had relaxed and were ready to re-join the group.”

How about therapeutic fish?

Noel said fish may be worth introducing.

“A good aquarium is very calming. Just watching the fish swim around can be quite mesmerising.”

“The thing about fish though is you have to have a good aquarium and that is quite a lot of effort to set up and requires expert maintenance, plus it’s difficult to cuddle a fish.”