Gain insights through a different reflection


 Canine Therapy

Canine Therapy was introduced into clinical settings in the 1970’s and has been utilised in areas such as hospitals, special needs programs, nursing homes, mental health facilities and correctional facilities. Canine Assisted Therapy uses dogs to support the health and healing of clients through fostering connection and deepening a clients awareness.  Like we do, dogs read energy and are often able to know what is needed in order to truly serve and support their owner and, when in a therapeutic environment, the client. 


Dogs provide a guaranteed, non -judgmental space; they connect and see the client in their essence allowing the client to feel no expectation from the dog but to simply feel confirmed in this moment of connection – for many clients this in itself can be a healing experience.  Therapy dogs support the process of trust and ground to be built within the therapy through the developing bond of the client and the dog.


Don’t worry, it’s not just any dog – although all dogs are able to serve and heal in the many varying capacities in life today, there is a certain temperament and quality required to fulfil the paws of a therapy dog; in addition to these basic qualities therapy dogs undergo extensive training before working with clients in a professional setting; training allows the development of each dogs skills and capacities regarding the various clients they meet and environments they are required to work in. 

Who Can Canine Therapy Support?

Canine therapy is supportive for children, adolescents and adults with a range of presenting issues some of which could include:​

  • Grief & Loss

  • Autism

  • Emotional & Behavioural Issues

  • Disordered Eating

  • Anxiety & Depression

  • Substance Abuse 

  • Attachment or Relationship Issues

  • Trauma Recovery & PTSD

However, it is particularly useful when working with clients who may have difficulty connecting with themselves or another person, often struggling to communicate and find direct one to one therapy overwhelming.  Canine therapy is also supportive for a client who experiences resistance to the therapy or struggles to focus within the session. Due to its very tangible and hands-on approach the client can stay engaged with the dog and the therapeutic work can take place in and around this initial engagement, making Canine Therapy a great resource when working with children and teenagers. 

Ok, But How Can a Dog Assist the Therapy?

As a canine therapist, I work with no pre-conceived agenda, it is really about trusting that what is needed for the client will present itself and between the three of us (therapist, therapy dog and client) this will unfold, often letting the client or Tea, (my therapy dog) take the lead.  Although Tea is a trained and certified therapy dog and offers great healing to clients she is still an animal and can at times have her own independent experience or response in the therapy session; working with a therapy dog allows another reflection to be available to the client offering us the opportunity to work with potential

resistance even if it feels provocative or uncomfortable.


Processing the clients varying experiences either in present time or afterwards is an important and highly supportive part to the therapy as it allows the client to gain insights into their feelings and then potentially connect these new insights and feelings with their current situations, behaviours and/or relationships that are taking place outside of the therapy.   This process is instrumental in offering the client change as they become more informed in how they move through life and where they wish to choose to move differently.   

Some simple but very healing experiences could include:

  • Developing boundaries and communication through giving the dog commands

  • Supporting differing parts of the client and connecting with the dog through different activities such as play

  • Deepening the client’s connection to their physical body and feeling spaces by caring for and cuddling the dog.

  • Through enquiry the client can gain understanding around relational themes – how they connect, what it is like to connect, what do they need/fear/enjoy about the connection, how does the dog respond to them and what is this like.  Exploring this process allows the client to understand dynamic in relationship, supporting the self-regulation of emotions and feelings while staying in connection and further understanding their patterns of behaviour  

  • Allowing the dog to be a mirror, the dog often reflects parts of the client’s unconscious, through exploring and integrating this it can bring attention to feelings, behaviours and experiences the client was previously unaware of.




Therapeutic Benefits of Canine Therapy

  • Decreased stress

  • Reduced anxiety and depression

  • Increased body-connection through hands-on interaction

  • Improved communication and social skills

  • Developing self-care through the care of another

  • Deepening love and vulnerability

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Self-regulation of mood

  • Reduced loneliness and enhanced sense of purpose through connection

  • Setting and respecting boundaries

  • Motivation to stay in treatment and participate fully in therapy (especially with teenagers and children). 



Tea is a 4-year-old German Shepherd cross although, her breed is predominantly unknown and very much questionable. Tea was rescued at 8 weeks of age by me, initially with no intention to work therapeutically with her.  Through my connection to Tea and the process of owning a dog I was able to experience first-hand the support, reflection and healing a dog can offer.     

Throughout my academic studies in psychotherapy I became interested in expanding and developing my resources in order to offer clients a suite of mediums to facilitate therapeutic work which led me to canine therapy.  Tea has the perfect temperament to serve as a therapy dog, she is very gentle and safe (often mistaken for an older dog), unimposing, forever patient and emotionally aware and so relaxed she could fall asleep (and often does).  Tea loves connecting with people, playing fetch, swimming in the ocean and eating dinner (at any of time of the day). 

In 2015 Tea successfully completed a 6-day intensive training and certification through Lead the Way Institute & Alpha Canine Professional.

The intensive training covered the following components:

  • Formal obedience

  • Manners and Canine Behaviours

  • Reaction to distractions including food, noise and objects

  • Interaction with people

  • Interaction with dogs

  • Interaction with other animals including horses, chickens and other livestock

  • Separation confidence

  • Control under competing demands

  • Handling, including reaction to inappropriate handling such as rough patting, touched all over, restrained hugging and mild aggression/violence.

Tea was able to move through the varying components with ease, our connection with one another is strong and we enjoy working together in union for the support of a client.