Psychodynamic animal-assisted psychotherapy: Processing and healing through relationships

Nancy Parish-Plass, Keren Bachi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The therapeutic value of animals, whether as pets in the family or as visitors in nursing homes, has been recognized for many decades and even centuries. However, only in the last 40 years has the field of animal-assisted psychotherapy (AAP) begun to develop and receive recognition. There is a great amount of confusion surrounding the field, even among those practicing it, as to the goals, approaches, and techniques of AAP. Yet, there is general agreement that AAP is a viable and meaningful therapy approach that can reach the inner emotional world of the client in unique and advantageous ways. This chapter covers the history and general background leading to the inclusion of animals in the psychotherapy setting. In order to understand more clearly the field of AAP and how it has a solid foundation as a subfield of psychotherapy, a general description of psychotherapy is provided, including theory and mechanisms that are especially relevant to the practice of AAP. AAP is then discussed in the context of the general field of psychotherapy, including a discussion of various mechanisms that are unique to AAP. Throughout the chapter, a special emphasis is placed on the relevance to psychotherapy in general, and specifically to AAP, of attachment theory and of the understanding of interpersonal neurobiology. Finally, four examples of psychotherapy modalities employing the integration of animals will be briefly described.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimal-Assisted Interventions for Health and Human Service Professionals
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages45
ISBN (Print)9781536174342
StatePublished - 11 Mar 2020


  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Attachment theory
  • Human-animal bond
  • Interpersonal neurobiology
  • Psychodynamic animal-assisted psychotherapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relationships


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