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About Therapeutic Pups

Our current therapeutic pup is Murphy.Therapeutic Pups integrates animal assisted therapy (AAT) into the psychotherapeutic work with adolescent eating disorder patients. In 2011, the Pink House Foundation awarded the Therapeutic Pups program a grant in support of its innovative approach to treating eating disorders patients. Prior to coming to the clinic, patients and parents are asked permission for the dog to be present in their evaluation or treatment sessions. They are given the opportunity to express any reservations or decline participation.

Why Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Eating disorders have physical and psychological effects that derail healthy adolescent development. Patients suffering from disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia often become detached from themselves and from others. They may withdraw to the point that their primary relationship is with the eating disorder, to the detriment of family and peer relationships and a capacity for relatedness and intimacy. They commonly deny their illness and are resistant to treatment. Including a therapeutic dog in the evaluation and treatment of eating disorder patients offers a unique way to engage and reach these patients.

While several inpatient and residential treatment centers incorporate the use of animal-assisted therapy, many with horses and some with dogs, Children's National is pioneering the use of pet therapy in outpatient psychotherapy for adolescents with eating disorders.