Human-animal bonds II: the role of pets in family systems and family therapy

Fam Process. 2009 Dec;48(4):481-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x.


The vast majority of pet owners regard their companion animals as family members, yet the role of pets in family systems and family therapy has received little attention in research, training, and practice. This article first notes the benefits of family pets and their importance for resilience. It then examines their role in couple and family processes and their involvement in relational dynamics and tensions. Next, it addresses bereavement in the loss of a cherished pet, influences complicating grief, and facilitation of mourning and adaptation. Finally, it explores the ways that clients' pets and the use of therapists' companion animals in animal-assisted therapy can inform and enrich couple and family therapy as valuable resources in healing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Animal Assisted Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Bereavement*
  • Family Relations*
  • Family Therapy*
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological