At Selby College, we have recently made a key recruitment to our Wellbeing team - Pip the therapy dog. Pip is a Patterdale Terrier and will assist me in therapy sessions to help lower anxiety and provide stress relief to students and staff.
So far, Pip is proving to be the ‘paw-fect candidate’ and has been well received at the College by both staff and students. He is my dog and is fully insured and certified to work as a therapy dog.
According to a recent survey by National Union of Students, 52 percent of students said that their mental health has deteriorated or been affected negatively by Covid-19. The survey also highlighted that despite these difficulties, only 20 percent of students have sought mental health support, with only 29 percent of those who reported worsening mental health seeking help.
Whilst the need for both student - and staff - counselling services is clear, getting people to engage with these services is often the biggest hurdle.
Over the past few years, therapy dogs have become increasingly popular in both educational and therapy settings. This is due to the numerous research studies which have highlighted the benefits therapy dogs can bring to people by providing stress relief and comfort in difficult situations. They also offer an enriching experience to help those suffering manage and deal with their mental health.
Research shows that the presence of animals causes changes in psychological and physiological states in the body such as increased positivity, stress reduction, lowered anxiety and depression, fewer feelings of loneliness and a decrease in blood pressure .
It is thought that therapy dogs can increase access to counselling services, as well as improving perceptions, visibility and acceptability overall of the service . Furthermore, studies suggest that therapy dogs can motivate those in need of counselling to initiative, engage with and participate in the therapeutic process .
Pip has proven to be a very popular addition in my private practice and I have seen first-hand the health benefits of having him join sessions. In light of this, and the positive student and staff feedback from previous guide dog visits, Pip is now accompanying me in my sessions at the College on a trial-basis.
So far, Pip has been a hit at the College and its rare when he makes it down a corridor without being stopped for a fuss by students or staff. But most importantly, Pip has helped to calm and put clients at ease in therapy sessions, creating a safe and warm environment for them to discuss their problems.
 Aydin, Fischer, Fischer, Frey, Hahn, Kastenmuller, & Krueger (2012). A Doggone Way to Reduce Stress: An Animal Assisted Intervention with College Students. Page 199.
 Daltry, R. M., & Mehr, K. E. (2015). Therapy dogs on campus: Recommendations for
counseling center outreach. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 29(1), 72–78.
 Fine, 2010; Henry & Crowley, 2015; Mallon, Ross, Klee, & Ross (2010). Embedded Therapy Dog: Bringing a Therapy Dog into Your Counseling Center. Rachel M. Daltry. Page 118.