Our Resident Therapist(s)

May 11, 2023

Lizards…birds…turtles…cats…chickens…snakes…pigs…dogs. The commonality? These are (some of) our pets and best friends. More than that, they are unwittingly our personal mental health caregivers.

I don’t have to be persuaded. I’ve been raised around animals since birth. I will personally attest to the calm that settles in when stroking my dog’s coat (only after putting in the work to brush out the tangled mats). My life would be incomplete and less joyful without it being shared with a pet.

We’ve come a long way from the days of animals being forbidden in hospitals. Animal therapy now has medical science backing its benefits of fighting anxiety, calming stress and fear, improving heart health, companionship, and adding daily structure.

The theories of how these benefits occur vary:

Scientists have also observed that interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has a number of important effects on the body. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. All of these changes help create a sense of calm and comfort.

Source: https://www.cancer.net/blog/2015-04/why-do-pets-make-us-feel-better

They may elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax…One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that pets fulfill the basic human need for touch.

Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm

Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.

The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Berger says. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.

Source: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets

Here’s another thought, this one relating to the increased shift to remote work. Pets can reduce work-related stress. Apparently, two out of three employees say work stresses them out and 40% say their job gets in the way of their health. Studies show that pets in the workplace help reduce stress and improve employee satisfaction. Pets may help increase productivity, wherever you work. When a dog joins a virtual meeting, group members rank their teammates higher on trust, team cohesion, and camaraderie.

Source: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-bond-for-life-pets/pets-as-coworkers/pets-and-mental-health

From promoting laughter and exercise to simply creating a focus away from our troubles, pets can boost our mental health. Pictured above is a collage of the pets who promote our healthy mentality at Stahl.


If you can’t afford a pet or live where you’re not allowed one, a simple option may be spending time with friends’ pets, whether that’s walking their dog, stroking their cat, or telling jokes to their bird.

Written by: Teri Isaac / Admin Assistant




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