Argumentative Essay on The Therapeutic Function of Pets in Treating Mental Disorders

Argumentative Essay on The Therapeutic Function of Pets in Treating Mental Disorders


The therapeutic potential of pets in supporting mental health has gained recognition, yet no comprehensive review has systematically evaluated their role in managing long-term mental health conditions. This study aims to investigate the depth, nature, and credibility of evidence regarding how pet ownership might benefit individuals with mental health issues. The essay discusses findings that illuminate the relevance of pets in the social networks of individuals diagnosed with severe and enduring mental illnesses, suggesting that pets can be viewed as part of a supportive social network. However, the evidence supporting the benefits of pet ownership for those with diagnosed mental health conditions remains fragmented and uncertain.

Supporting Arguments for the Positive Impact of Pets on Mental Health

Traditional approaches to self-managing long-term conditions often neglect the broader resources, including social relationships and domestic environments, which play a significant role in providing lay and community support. Evidence indicates that pet ownership offers stress reduction, improved quality of life, and enhanced social interactions (Brooks et al., 2018).

Quantitative studies showed mixed results regarding the emotional benefits of pets. Notably, canine companionship positively affected military veterans with PTSD, reducing loneliness, depression, and irritability while increasing feelings of calmness. However, other studies reported neutral or slightly negative effects. Qualitative studies consistently highlighted the emotional support pets provide, with individuals often valuing pet relationships as much as or more than human relationships. Pets’ consistent comfort and affection provision seemed pivotal in this regard (Brooks et al., 2018).

Pets’ unique emotional support, intuitive responsiveness during crises, and their ability to alleviate loneliness through physical contact were highlighted in various studies. They promoted emotional stability, stress management, and coping with challenging life events, providing a sense of connection and reassurance, especially for those living alone (Brooks et al., 2018).

Pets play a direct role in addressing and managing the negative perceptions and experiences associated with a diagnosis of mental illness, whether originating from the individuals themselves or others in their social networks. The mechanisms through which this impact occurred included mitigating the loss of social status resulting from a mental health diagnosis, offering non-judgmental acceptance often unavailable elsewhere, fostering a sense of being wanted and valued, and promoting a positive self-image. A study even suggested that companion animals symbolize abused childhood selves, and by caring for a pet, individuals may symbolically be nurturing this part of themselves (Maber-Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016).


Counterarguments to the positive impact of pet ownership on mental health management emerged from individual quantitative and qualitative studies. These counterarguments encompassed concerns about financial costs and housing situations, the potential burden of pet ownership, especially if pets were unruly and detrimental to mental health. Horses and dogs were perceived as the most challenging in this regard, emphasizing the importance of aligning pets with individual circumstances. The initial stages of pet ownership were acknowledged as often difficult but simultaneously viewed as a significant investment for future support and companionship. Pets were also seen as potential barriers to aspirational goals related to recovery, such as travel (Maber-Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016).

The actual or potential loss of beloved companion animals emerged as a major source of distress for owners. However, it was recognized that joy could still be derived from their memories once the grief process was navigated, and such experiences could contribute to a deeper understanding of other challenging life events.


In conclusion, despite some shortcomings in the available data, this essay posits that pets offer substantial benefits to individuals with mental health conditions. These advantages stem from the deep connection with their owners and the support provided during emotional crises, coupled with their ability to assist in managing symptoms as they arise. The findings underscore the need for cultural shifts in policy to incorporate pets into support systems, which are often overlooked by formal service provision. Negative aspects of pet ownership, including concerns about potential issues and the significant distress associated with the actual loss of a pet, align with previous research. Rigorous further research is essential to explore this relationship comprehensively, encompassing various roles that pets may play in mental health, as identified within this review. The research studies discussed herein provide a basis for discussion that services and policymakers may want to consider in the future.


Brooks, H. L., Rushton, K., Lovell, K., Bee, P., Walker, L., Grant, L., Rogers, A. (2018). The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry,18(1), p. 31. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2. PMID: 29402247; PMCID: PMC5800290.

Maber-Aleksandrowicz, S., Avent, C., & Hassiotis, A. (2016). A systematic review of animal-assisted therapy on psychosocial outcomes in people with intellectual disability. Res Dev Disabil, 49-50, pp. 322–338. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2015.12.005.

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