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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Benefits of Dogs in Treating ADHD and Other Mental Health Issues in Children

The Heller Psychology GroupPeople who love dogs, and even some who don’t, will often say that playing with a dog makes them happier. There is something about the affection of an animal that can improve moods and other areas of functioning.

That being said, few people think about how dogs can be helpful in treating ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety, social skill issues, and other items, both in the therapy session and at home.

Obtaining individual therapy with a therapist who has the ability to incorporate the use of a therapy dog into treatment has benefits, but is not appropriate for all individuals. However, for the right individuals, the benefits can be significant.

The decision to obtain a dog to use at home for treating disorders/issues should be carefully considered. Dogs require a lot of work, can result in added expenses, and can be disruptive at times. However, there are also a lot of benefits.

Here are some benefits of having a dog involved in individual therapy:

–        For addressing impulse control/regulation issues, dogs provide immediate feedback if a child is being too rough or not interacting appropriately with the dog.

–        Especially for younger children, dogs can be helpful in teaching them to be aware of their actions and participate in reciprocal play.

–        Many children (and adults too) feel more comfortable in the presence of a dog, and may be more likely to open up about sensitive topics.

Here are some benefits of having a dog at home to assist with treatment of disorders/issues:

–        Provides children with a living being for companionship.

–        Could help children better regulate impulses and participate in reciprocal play.

–        Teaches children about responsibility and caring for a living creature.

–        Provides another living being to provide affection.

Dogs can have great health benefits, both when used in treatment and when they are present at home. The choice to seek treatment involving a dog or obtain a dog for your home is an individual choice and one that needs to be thought about carefully. Of course, the type of breed and the dog’s background (especially if he or she is a rescue dog) is important to consider.

I hope that this article is helpful in raising awareness of the benefits of dogs in treating mental health issues.

In addition to regular blog updates, you can follow me through The Heller Psychology Group’s Social Media pages for daily postings of useful articles:

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


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