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Pets to the Rescue

Companion Animals, Therapy, and Relationships

An article in the New York Times magazine mentioned two psychologists whose patients bring their dogs to session. One psychologist specializes in Dog-Owner relationship issues. The other psychologist allows his patients to bring their dogs to their sessions. It was very gratifying to read that some of my colleagues see the wisdom of including dogs in their sessions—not for pet assisted therapy but as subjects in therapy themselves.

I encourage my patients to bring their dogs and other companion animals to their sessions. Dogs, cats, birds, and other animals are family members. Sometimes in a family, the dog is a person’s closest ally. When I do an intake and assessment, in addition to asking about family members (siblings, parents, extended family), I always ask if there are companion animals and invite the patient to bring them to their sessions.

Photo Credit: Joe Perez of


I often involve the family dog, cat, bird, guinea pig, rabbit, or horse in a patient’s healing. Individuals with anxiety often benefit from taking walks with their dogs (it is mutually beneficial-since most dogs love to take walks). Those who suffer from depression often find comfort in walking with and spending time in the company of a dog or horse. The unconditional positive regard one gets from a dog (and the occasional cat) is tremendously healing. Your dog loves you no matter what. You cat may too, but might not be in the mood to let you know.

I do not use the animal to help the person but rather help expand and build upon the strengths of the animal-human bond. It is good for both human and animal.

The New York Times article has a humorous take by the writer on his relationship insecurity issues with his dog---he thinks his dog doesn’t like him. I am very fortunate in that I am certain my rescue Chihuahua is fond of me (and I of her.)

See the New York Times article here:  

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