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Module: Core Curriculum in Health Psychology

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Professor Anna Chur-Hansen
Discipline of Psychiatry
University of Adelaide


Companion animals - such as dogs and cats, but including any animal considered by the person to be a companion - are important sources of social support in modern Western culture. Psychologists and other health care professionals need to be aware of the importance and significance of companion animals in people's lives, and the roles they play in the community. The meaning of an animal in an individual's life should be taken into account in any treatment plan. This is particularly relevant when the person is separated from the animal. Separation may occur through death of the animal, but can also occur if the person must relinquish the animal, for example, if they can no longer afford to care for it, if they are moving to accommodation that does not accept animals, if there is a relationship breakdown, if they go to hospital or to rehabilitation, or if the animal is literally lost or stolen.

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