The Role of Psychiatric Service Dogs in Therapy and Treatment

Nov 23, 2023

Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) play a vital role in therapy and treatment for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. These highly trained dogs provide support, comfort, and assistance to their handlers, helping them navigate daily life and manage their mental health conditions. In this blog post, we will explore the important role that psychiatric service dogs play in therapy and treatment.

What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Psychiatric service dogs are specially trained to assist individuals with psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder, among others. Unlike emotional support animals, psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate the symptoms of their handler's disability.

The Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs offer a wide range of benefits to individuals with psychiatric disabilities. These dogs can help their handlers in various ways, including:

  • Providing emotional support and companionship
  • Alerting their handlers to signs of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Interrupting harmful behaviors or self-harm
  • Assisting with medication reminders
  • Guiding their handlers during dissociative episodes

These tasks not only provide practical assistance but also help individuals with psychiatric disabilities feel more secure, confident, and supported in their daily lives.

Training and Certification

Psychiatric service dogs undergo extensive training to ensure they can perform the necessary tasks to assist their handlers. This training includes obedience training, task-specific training, and socialization to ensure the dogs can handle various environments and situations.

While there is no official certification for psychiatric service dogs, many organizations offer training programs and assessments to ensure the dogs meet specific standards. It is important to work with reputable organizations or trainers when obtaining a psychiatric service dog to ensure the dog's training and behavior are reliable.

Legal Rights and Access

Psychiatric service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States. This means that individuals with psychiatric disabilities have the right to have their service dogs accompany them in public places, including restaurants, stores, and transportation.

It is important to note that psychiatric service dogs are not considered pets but rather working animals. They are granted the same rights and access as other service animals, such as guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments.

Building a Strong Bond

The relationship between a psychiatric service dog and their handler is built on trust, love, and mutual understanding. Through consistent training, daily care, and positive reinforcement, the bond between the dog and their handler grows stronger over time.


Psychiatric service dogs play a crucial role in therapy and treatment for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. These highly trained dogs offer support, assistance, and companionship, helping their handlers manage their mental health conditions and improve their overall well-being. The bond between a psychiatric service dog and their handler is a powerful and transformative relationship that can make a significant difference in the lives of those with psychiatric disabilities.