woman on virtual counseling appointment with dog

Why You Should Include Your Pet in Your Telehealth Sessions

About 68 percent of people in the United States own a pet, including furry, scaly, and hooved friends. While pets and their owners come in all shapes and sizes, one thing is clear: pets are a beloved part of American life. In fact, 95 percent of pet owners consider their pets as members of their families.

While your dog, cat, or other pet may not be able to talk you through some of life’s biggest challenges, they can still play a vital role in your mental health treatment plan. For example, bringing your beloved pet into your online therapy appointment can have all kinds of important benefits.

Pets Provide Comfort During Difficult Conversations

During therapy, you will likely need to talk about difficult topics, including trauma from your past or your fears about the future. While this process is essential in therapy, it can cause distress and discomfort. Having your trusted pet nearby can alleviate some of those issues and allow you to talk about difficult subjects.

Research shows that interacting with an animal can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decrease the levels stress hormones in the body
  • Increase levels of calming and relaxing hormones
  • Improve overall mood

These benefits can make it easier to go through some of the uncomfortable and important parts of therapy. While a cat’s purr or a dog’s snuggle may be responsible for these benefits, studies also show that people with less traditional pets gain many of the same benefits. Even watching an aquarium full of fish can soothe you during online therapy.

Feel Less Alone While Maintaining Confidentiality

Studies have also found that people feel less alone and have increased feelings of social support when they are with their pets. The simple fact that you are not alone with your therapist can make you feel more at ease.

Friends and family could also make you feel less alone. However, having another person in the conversation can make you less likely to be open about your feelings, as they could violate your confidentiality or treat you differently based on what you say.

Although you may wish you could talk to your pets, their lack of language skills makes animals the perfect companions for online therapy sessions. No matter what you tell your therapist, your pet will not repeat it and they will love you just the same.

Your Pet Does Not Need Special Training for This

Some dogs get hours of specialized training in order to help people with specific needs. These dogs are often bred specifically for this purpose, and they spend months or years in training. While such a companion may also offer support, your pet does not need to go through any such training in order to help you.

So long as you and your pet have a connection, they can make an excellent companion. Are you and your companion ready for therapy together? Find a LifeStance Health therapist near you to get started.