Therapy Animals ~ Could They Help Children of Parental Alienation and High Conflict Cases?

A child alienated from a parent and suffering anxiety at spending the night away from the alienator is being given a therapy animal by the target parent for their upcoming trip where they will be spending more time with them.

The target parent trains therapy dogs and as we discussed their decision to provide a therapy dog for their child I recognized the potential to help other children with anxiety find support and coping skills in moderate to severe cases of parental alienation and high conflict cases.

AAT or Animal Assisted Therapy is a form of therapy that uses dogs and other animals to help people cope with health problems, including cancer. Helping patients and their families find relief and a distraction from pain, discomfort and stress of their diagnosis. To clarify a therapy animal is different from a service animal. A service animal performs tasks to assist a person with a disability. AAT is a type of therapy.

AAT has also been shown to improve mood and energy levels and decrease perceived pain and anxiety in the young and old. It can also provide a sense of companionship that can combat feelings of isolation which is why AAT has been so successful with PTSD patients. Helping to impact depression, anxiety, blood pressure, and more not just emotionally but physically too.

Dr. Rebecca Bailey, uses AAT at Transitioning Families, to help children and their parents transition through her reunification program in Northern California. Where she was involved in the Jaycee Dugard case and the FBI.

It made me wonder if AAT could have saved the life of a six year old child who committed suicide upset over his parents divorce. He used his belt to hang himself on the refrigerator door. If he had been treated using AAT would he be alive now? And what about other children and adolescents who act out at home and school, attempt suicide, hurt themselves, cutting, sex, running away, take drugs. Couldn’t they also be helped using AAT?

We certainly need more effective ways to protect the relationship between a child and both fit parents from what we have now. We need more options to transition children back with parents they have may be or about to be alienated from. And we certainly need to provide better coping skills in high conflict cases and alienation for children and adolescents. Including provisions for AAT in reunification and other types of therapy in court orders that allow for a therapy animal to be involved with the child. In some cases at both homes when the opportunity provides for that provision.

Chime in what are your thoughts?


Catherine MacWillie is the CEO of Custody Calculations and a Child Custody and Divorce Coach. She has 32 years experience dealing with Family Law. 24 years as a law enforcement officer responding to radio calls dealing with divorce and custody issues and a first responder to child abuse investigations in addition to other related assignments. She spent ten years researching Family Law and divorce including cause, effect, impact, solutions to the many issues that arise during divorce and custody proceedings. The last eight years as a Coach.

She is the past president of Stop Parental Alienation of Children (SPAC). A prior board member of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO). An advisory board member of International Support Network of Alienated Families (ISNAF). A member of Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG). A member of the 2014 Parental Alienation Colloquium, Long Beach, California. A member of the 2016 Parental Alienation Think Tank, Beverly Hills, California.

In 2017 her research on divorce, crime and parental alienation will be presented in Prague, Czechoslovakia at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH) a prestigious event with participants coming from around the globe to present.

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7 thoughts on “Therapy Animals ~ Could They Help Children of Parental Alienation and High Conflict Cases?

    • Custody Calculations

      Madeleine, I am very sorry for the delay in responding to your post. Please contact me regarding your case, 702-675-5120. If I am not available please leave your name and number and reference wordpress comment. I will return your call as soon as possible.

    • Custody Calculations

      Madeleine Sleeth, I am so sorry this an many other comments were not visible to me until just a few minutes ago. Please contact me at 702-675-5120. If I am not available please leave your name, number and reference this WordPress conversation and I will return the call as soon as I am able.

  1. Michelle Guzman

    This is an amazing idea that I too believe would fill a huge void in many children involved in divorce and/or custody battles, along with children from broken homes who suffer from any form of anxiety or depression. The therapeutic benefits that a pet can provide anyone during times of loss, heartache, grief, etc. are immeasurable!

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