Dog Lovers: Four Reasons You Should Bring Your Dog To Your Therapy Sessions

Dogs help their owners live long, prosper and stay calm, and in many cases, dogs can be trained to help people with various mental illnesses including anxiety or depression. If you have a dog and you see a counselor or therapist, you may want to consider bringing your dog to your appointments with you.

Whether your dog is a trained therapy dog or just a loving companion, having him or her at your sessions can help in the following ways:

1. Dogs help to reduce stress in their human companions

In general, dogs reduce owner stress and statistically help their owners to live longer and avoid heart disease. However, a dog's ability to create this effect doesn't just happen slowly over time. It also can happen in the moment.

Studies show playing with a dog reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As therapy can often cause you to cover intense or stressful topics, your dog can help you get through those discussions calmly.

2. Dogs promote increased serotonin production

In addition to reducing your body's production of stress hormones, your dog can boost your production of happy hormones such as serotonin.

When you produce serotonin, it doesn't just help you during your therapy session. It also helps your mood, behaviour, appetite, ability to sleep and other important areas of your life. You will reap these benefits throughout the days or weeks following your therapy session.

If you want these effects and you don't currently own a dog, see if you can find a therapist who has a dog at their practice for you to pet during your sessions.  

3. Dogs can provide physical contact

During therapy, you may feel a lot of emotions, including sadness. When you are feeling your lowest, it can help to have a cuddle or a friendly touch. There are several different schools of thought regarding physical contact between therapists and their patients. Some people believe there should be no touching, but others think a pat on the back or a hug should be encouraged.

With a dog in the room, you don't need to worry about it. You can simply get the physical contact your need from your furry friend.

4. Your therapist can help assess your therapy dog

Therapy dogs can be trained to call suicide hotlines, or they can call family members whose numbers have been programmed into your phone. They can bring you your medication and a glass of water, or they can help calm you down in a stressful situation.

Although almost all dogs provide emotional wellness benefits to their owners, not all of them are cut out to be therapy dogs. If you bring your dog to therapy, your therapist (like those at Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc) may be able to help you assess whether or not he or she is a good candidate for being your full time therapy dog.