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 Amy Marschall, Psy.D.

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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