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  • Writer's pictureDr. Halle Roebuck, LMFT

The Healing Power of Therapy Dogs

Having a certified therapy dog present during counseling sessions significantly reduces stress levels for clients struggling with a wide variety of challenges. Dr. Halle Roebuck, one of our child therapy specialists, brings her adorable and well-trained Shih Tzu “Dr. Benny'' to work every day. Dr. Benny is an official AKC Certified Therapy Dog who has done extensive training to attain his certification.

The moment the office doors open, Dr. Benny runs over to greet our clients in the waiting room with a big smile on his face and a very fast wagging tail. Benny’s warm, friendly presence helps calm people and puts them at ease. Many of our current clients have reported that Benny’s presence instantly makes them feel happy and comfortable during the counseling process, which can make a big difference especially if someone is nervous about coming to therapy.

The field of animal assisted therapy is growing rapidly. Many hospitals around the country have implemented having therapy dogs present daily as a part of their patient care model. The Mayo Clinic’s Caring Canines program is just one example of a hospital that has been providing therapy dog support services for over a decade to their patients. The therapy dogs are present on hospital grounds to assist patients in boosting emotional well-being during a challenging time.

Changes include a reduction of fear and anxiety, occurring in both humans and animals upon human-animal interaction, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Studies have shown that therapy animals can help lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels in humans. It is not surprising for pet therapy to be prescribed as a form of treatment for symptom reduction for clients with anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

In recent years, there has been a significant body of research that goes far beyond the anecdotal appeal of being with a canine. One of the studies, conducted that highlights the undeniable positive connection between a child and canine. It found that weekly sessions with certified therapy dogs and its handler significantly lowered children’s cortisol levels which were measured and validated through saliva samples. Having a therapy dog present in the therapy room appeared to be more beneficial than meditation practices.

Therapy dogs have proven to have the following psychological benefits:

  • Provide comfort and support

  • Decrease levels of loneliness

  • Lowering pain intensity

  • Encourage communication

  • Lifts spirits and improves mood

  • Decrease levels of depression

  • Increases socialization

  • Helps with emotional and speech disorders

  • Increases empathy

Dogs love unconditionally, are solely focused on you, aid isolating feelings, and are non-judgmental creatures. These are qualities that all of us humans are in search of and reasons many of us start therapy in the first place. Merging this great bond with the positive outcomes of psychotherapy can help children, individuals, couples, and families getting therapy shift towards their goals.

If you or your child could benefit from counseling and would feel more comfortable with a Therapy Dog present like Dr. Benny - we invite you to contact us for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. We look forward to speaking with you!

Dr. Halle Roebuck provides counseling services for children, teens, adults, parents, and families at our beautiful office in Plantation, Florida. She also provides counseling online via our secure telehealth platform (with a virtual appearance from Dr. Benny - of course) for those who reside in the state of Florida.


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