Pet in the therapy room: An attachment perspective on Animal-Assisted Therapy

Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Mario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


John Bowlby's (1973, 1980, 1982) attachment theory is one of the most influential theories in personality and developmental psychology and provides insights into adjustment and psychopathology across the lifespan. The theory is also helpful in defining the target of change in psychotherapy, understanding the processes by which change occurs, and conceptualizing cases and planning treatment (Daniel, 2006; Obegi & Berant, 2008; Sable, 2004; Wallin, 2007). Here, we propose a model of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) based on attachment theory and on the unique characteristics of human-pet relationships. The model includes clients' unmet attachment needs, individual differences in attachment insecurity, coping, and responsiveness to therapy. It also suggests ways to foster the development of more adaptive patterns of attachment and healthier modes of relating to others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-561
Number of pages21
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal-Assisted Therapy
  • animal
  • attachment theory
  • internal working models
  • pet
  • psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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