Dog Therapy

Psychologytoday (2018) reported the following: “ Animal-assisted therapy can be a useful intervention for individuals or groups. A meta-analysis of 49 studies reporting on animal-assisted therapy found positive outcomes and overall improved emotional well-being in those with autism, medical conditions, or behavioral issues. Another review of randomized, controlled studies found that animal-assisted therapy can be helpful for those battling illnesses like depression, anxiety, phobia, and PTSD.  Anyone who dislikes or fears animals or is allergic to them, is not a likely candidate for this particular intervention.” 

Many have experienced the calming effect of dogs.  But the dog has to be of the correct breed and temperament for this to work.  

Nimer and Lundahl (2015) found after reviewing 49 studies on animal assisted therapy (AAT) that it was associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in four areas: Autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being. They found that animal assisted therapy has potential uses as an additive to established therapies.  These established therapies imply psychotherapy and medication.  At Gravenhurst Medical we put the emphasis on the counselling, and less emphasis on the use of medications.  We avoid using benzodiazepines, but will if needed add antidepressant or SSRI related medications.

Of interest to Dr  Esmond are further studies into the role a therapy dog can play when present within a psychotherapy session itself.  Pre and post therapy session surveys can be done under two separate groups randomly assigned.  The control group would be just psychotherapy alone, and the test group would include a therapy dog present during the counselling session.  Interested parties who would like to help out in this research project should call the clinic directly at 705-684-8884..


  • Nimer J., Lundahl B. (2015) Animal-assisted therapy: a meta-analysis. Anthrozoos.


    Kamioka H, Okada S, Tsutani K, et al. Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. April 2014; 22(2):371-390.