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Sable, P. (2016). The Pet Connection: An Attachment Perspective. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 10(3):199-210.

(2016). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 10(3):199-210

The Pet Connection: An Attachment Perspective

Pat Sable

Using the ethological-evolutionary framework of attachment, and including how the theory has been updated and expanded by findings from attachment-based research, neuroscience, and animal studies, this paper proposes that a relationship with a family pet, especially a dog or cat, reflects certain dynamics of attachment that may account for the sense of comfort and connection they provide to individuals at all stages of the life cycle. There is now convincing scientific evidence that companion animals have positive effects on psychological and physical well-being, helping shape how people regulate their emotions, deal with stress or trauma, and relate to others. Discussion considers the implications of these benefits for social work, in particular for policy, prevention, and psychotherapy. An illustration of working with a client who has experienced the loss of a pet as well as a framework for promoting attachment in pets adopted from rescue shelters are also presented. It is recommended that both professionals students in the caring professions be educated about the human-animal bond and the significance of pets to so many of our clients.

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