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Filial Pet Therapy

Filial Therapy was developed by Dr. Louise Guerney and Dr. Bernard Guerney in the 1960’s, where parents are taught to use therapeutic play, also known as Play Therapy, to help their children with various behavioral issues. Research has demonstrated its effectiveness with children with attachment problems, child conduct problems, victims of sexual abuse, and children exposed to domestic violence.

Filial Pet Therapy is similar, teaching families to implement Animal Assisted Psychotherapy into play therapy in their own home. While some family pets may not be therapeutic, in many cases, pets and their families can be trained to help children with issues.

First, we conduct the initial therapy sessions in our offices. The therapists work with their own pet partner, child and family to begin the process with the assessment and treatment planning stage. Interventions can then be developed and practiced with the therapist’s pet partner.

Let’s look at the example of a child with depression. Together the therapist, child and parent may use a clicker to train the therapy dog to jump through a hula-hoop. The parent is taught the basic skills needed to teach the trick as well as the therapeutic, supportive and encouraging functions for the child. As the child sees how their behavior impacts the animal and receives the positive support of the parent, they start to build a channel of esteem. While this may be a small step, once this door of hope is opened it is much easier to continue developing positive behavioral strategies. In the process, the parent and child are having fun working and playing with their pet.

Once some success has been achieved with the therapist’s pet partner, we move the process to the family’s home. The family pet is first evaluated and, if needed, receives behavioral training to be a partner. Interventions are designed that the parent can then facilitate on a regular basis with their pet and child, receiving periodic check-ups and support from the therapist either at the office or in their home.

We have found that providing this counseling service to families is both financially beneficial and empowering to the family. While there are many functions and issues that should only be carried out by professional counselors and therapists, there is still much a family can do for their child at home.

To learn more about how one of our Professional Therapy Teams can help, or to schedule a consultation, you can contact us at: 720-266-4444, or send us a confidential email. We look forward to working with you.

7-30-19 (40).NEF

Ready to talk?

Give us a call at 720-266-2444 or email Please have ready: your full name, date of birth, email, phone, and insurance info. 

Individual Services

Child Therapy

Therapy for children ages 3 - 10

Adolescent Therapy

Therapy for adolescents ages 11 - 18

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Therapy for people on the spectrum

Filial Pet Therapy

Integrating the family pet into therapeutic interactions.

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