Service users and their animals: considerations for mental health professionals
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Service users and their animals: considerations for mental health professionals

Bronwen Williams Works as mental health training team leader, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucester

Practitioners need to recognise any potential positive and negative effects of companion animals in clients’ lives, says Bronwen Williams

Animals feature in many service users’ lives and can be significant factors in their wellbeing and recovery, but relationships with animals can also increase risks and mental health issues. Animals and the effect they have on people’s mental health are poorly researched and understood or taken into account in clinical practice. In the UK, mental health service providers, teams and individual workers, especially care co-ordinators, should recognise the significance of animals to their clients and the emotional bond between them.

Conversations, assessments and care plans with service users should include information about their animals, because it could prove useful in diagnosis and management. Understanding and assistance by the mental health worker in coping with the welfare of a client’s animal(s), and also the possible stresses and risks, can benefit the therapeutic relationship. Staff should be familiar with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and know how to contact animal welfare organisations.

Mental Health Practice. 18, 7, 32-37. doi: 10.7748/mhp.18.7.32.e881


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 26 April 2013

Accepted: 19 July 2013

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