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The Role of Companion Animals in the Treatment of Mental Disorders

Edited by Nancy R. Gee, Ph.D., Lisa Townsend, LCSW-C, Ph.D., and Robert L. Findling, M.D., M.B.A.

  • ISBN 978-1-61537-455-7
  • Item #37455

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From ancient literature to modern fiction and research reports in professional literature, the bond between humans and animals has been extensively documented. Although 70% of American households would vouch for the benefits of companion animals, the decision about whether to implement animal-based interventions for mental disorders is not always a simple one.

Unique both for its subject matter and for the depth of the information it provides, The Role of Companion Animals in the Treatment of Mental Disorders examines the existing evidence to support these practices as well as the risks associated with various types of programs.

This volume combines a thorough analysis of the latest research with practical examples and explores topics that include

  • Ensuring animal welfare and well-being, with an emphasis on understanding applicable laws and regulations
  • Animal-assisted crisis interventions to prevent the onset of PTSD in individuals who have experienced significant traumas, such as natural disasters
  • Animal-assisted programs for youths at risk for mental disorders secondary to child maltreatment or contact with the juvenile justice system
  • Human-animal interaction (HAI) in specific disorders, including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, depression, dementia, and anxiety
  • The application of HAIs in university campuses, hospital settings, and psychotherapy

As applicable for trainees and residents as it is for experienced mental health professionals, this book offers a scientifically grounded review of extant knowledge while highlighting what is not yet known about animal-based interventions in particular patient groups.

Readers will come away with an understanding of the role that animals can play in mitigating psychiatric symptoms, engaging patients in treatment, and enhancing well-being—as well as key principles and considerations for determining whether an animal-based intervention is appropriate for a given patient.


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. A Working Partnership Between Clinicians and Therapy Dogs in the Treatment of Mental Disorders
  • Chapter 2. Understanding the variety of animal roles in the treatment of mental health conditions and clarifying the clinician's responsibilities
  • Chapter 3. Companion Animals in Crisis Intervention
  • Chapter 4. Companion animals involved in the treatment of at-risk and adjudicated youth
  • Chapter 5. Companion Animals in the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Chapter 6. Companion Animals in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Chapter 7. Companion Animals in the Treatment of Depression
  • Chapter 8. Companion Animals in the Treatment of Stress and Anxiety
  • Chapter 9. Companion animals in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Chapter 10. Companion animals in the Treatment of Serious Mental Illness
  • Chapter 11. Companion Animals Assisting Patients in Hospice
  • Chapter 12. Companion Animals in the Treatment of Dementia and Aging Related Concerns
  • Chapter 13. How Animal-Assisted Interventions May Improve Mental Health and Academic Performance of University Students
  • Chapter 14. How Dog Visitation Programs May be Beneficial to Hospital Patients and Staff
  • Chapter 15. How Animal-Assisted Therapy can be Incorporated to Enrich Psychotherapy
  • Conclusion


    Jessica Bibbo, Ph.D.
    Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
    Alexa M. Carr, M.A.
    Cynthia K. Chandler, Ed.D.
    Ann Childress, M.D.
    Laura Dunn, M.D.
    Robert L. Findling, M.D., M.B.A.
    Aubrey H. Fine, Ph.D.
    Erika Friedmann, Ph.D.
    Nancy R. Gee, Ph.D.
    Jennifer Hightower, Ph.D., NCC
    David Hibler, M.S.
    Abigail M. Jacaruso, OTD
    Susan G. Kornstein, M.D.
    Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN
    James Levenson, MD
    Alice R. Mao, M.D.
    Aubrey L. Milatz, M.S.
    S. Julianna Moreno,
    Megan Kiely Mueller, Ph.D.
    Leanne O. Nieforth,
    Marguerite E. O'Haire, Ph.D.
    Patricia Pendry, Ph.D.
    Beth A. Pratt, Ph.D., R.N.
    Kerri E. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
    Sabrina E. B. Schuck, Ph.D.
    Leslie Stewart, Ph.D.
    Tushar Thakre, M.D.
    Ayse Torres, Ph.D., LMHC, CRC
    Lisa D. Townsend, LCSW, Ph.D.
    Jaymie L. Vandagriff, Ph.D.
    Melissa Y. Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA

About the Authors

Nancy R. Gee, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, Director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction, and Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, Virginia.

Lisa D. Townsend, LCSW, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Children's Hospital of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, and Clinical and Research Associate at the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Robert L. Findling, M.D., M.B.A., is Professor and Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and C. Kenneth and Diane Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

In recent years, the use of companion animals in treatments for mental disorders has been increasingly accepted by clinicians and the public. Written by top researchers, this book provides a much-needed overview of the current state of knowledge of animal-assisted interventions. The chapters integrate theoretical perspectives with the latest research and offer practical guidelines for the incorporation of animals into evidenced-based treatments. The book is an invaluable resource for both researchers and mental health practitioners.—Hal Herzog, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Western Carolina UniversityAuthor of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard To Think Straight About Animals

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