Animals in Therapy

Hands down, my favorite part of telehealth is meeting everyone’s pets. A close second is my clients meeting my pets.

A while back, I shared a story about my cat, Vera, and how she was affected by trauma. I’ve shared this story with kids at my practice for years as an allegory to some of their own experiences, and if my boss was not severely allergic to cats, I would train her as a therapy cat and bring her to work every day. Let her earn her keep a little bit.

Pictured: a freeloader

Research has shown that pets help people manage stress, especially those living with mental illness. Animals bond to their humans and respond to our emotions. Even pets with no special training often try to comfort us when we become upset.

Talking about pets has always been a great icebreaker with kids, but when a pet joins a session, even more options for interventions open up! Clients can explore how petting the animal makes them feel. They can look at their pet’s body language to practice social skills. With well-trained dogs, I’ve even had parents play Simon Says so the dog can model good listening for the child. Possibilities are endless!

Bringing pets into sessions has led to some awesome therapeutic work that would never have been possible in my “real” office.

Armani wants attention too!

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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