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certificate in pet/animal loss/bereavement

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by BellaPsyD, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    Anyone considering certificating in pet loss? I know the APLB ( has a counselor and an intern program.

    As a huge animal lover and rescue supporter, I have a major soft spot for animals (was originally pre-vet, but just couldn't ultimately face some of the issues, I'm a softie). Having lost a treasured pet myself recently (brown bunny ^Frankie^ in my avatar), I know how few resources there are and how little people seem to understand the effect of pet loss.

    Anyway, I know this wouldn't be all I specialize in (having a concentration in neuro and primary care), however I feel a major major pull towards this and really think I could make a difference.

    For group class, I designed (complete with session work) what a counseling group would run as and have ammassed a large database of articles, books, etc on this topic) I was wondering what everyone thought about this- have you too run into a lack of knowledge and experts in this area?

    As I apply for internship, I really wish one of the search options on APPIC's site would have something for pet bereavement- I wonder if any programs offer it? I assume I will have to pick this up post-doc.
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  3. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    1) grief therapy has been shown to either have a non-significant effect or actually harm the patient

    2) i see no benefit to this program if you are well versed in CBT and i question why someone would seek lower level training after obtaining doctoral level training.

    3) if you do decide to pursue this and the other aforementioned specialties you may want to consider how other medical professionals would view this. i guarantee that many will consider this quackery. I am not putting forth an opinion on this tx, just on the perception that MDs/DOs have on this.

    4) APPIC doesn't have this because no one really does this. that should tell you that this is either an unexplored area or that it is on the fringe of psychology. your choice in how you interpret.
  4. JockNerd

    JockNerd 5+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2007
    If the OP lives in the right market, I think she'll be crying about MD/DO perceptions all the way to the bank. :p

    The fact that no one does it just means it's an open market. People were all aghast when pet insurance started, but now it seems crazy to NOT get a policy on an animal you're spending a few grand on.

    OP-If there's a lack of experts, it just means you can have an easy time setting yourself up as an expert. "Venus/Mars" therapy is a whole lot quackier than pet bereavement, and that took off. You might have to sort of sell your soul, but looks to me like a potentially great career move.
  5. thewesternsky

    thewesternsky 10+ Year Member

    Jan 30, 2007
    While I think JN's right on some counts-- this may be a good niche market to break into-- I don't think the APLB program is the right way to go about it. The internship program takes place in chatrooms, and I can't see it being overly informative for someone who's already a clinical psychologist. I think you're much better of continuing to amass primary research articles on the topic. If necessary, DO the primary research. :) Adapt the strategies that are effective for helping people deal with grief to this population and find out what's effective. I feel like the counsellor training would be largely a waste of time (and could quite possibly be perceived as cheapening your doctoral degree) at this point in your career.
  6. Cosmo75

    Cosmo75 Post-Doctoral Fellow 2+ Year Member

    Feb 25, 2008
    Hey, if you're interested in it then go for it. I'm not sure that getting "certified" is really necessary though. I think becoming an expert in the area via research/clinical practice as a doctoral psychologist is a better route. I would think that you could parallel any research with that of the already existing bereavement literature for loss of a human loved one. It'd be interesting to compare and look for differences (if any).
    Of course this could have already been done and I'm just ignorant to the research out there :D
  7. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    On semi-related topic....I've been interested in contributions (if any) of equine therapy as an adjunct to traditional therapy, though I haven't looked much into it yet. Anyone happen to know any good resources or research that looks into this area?
  8. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    thanks everyone for your opinions! I definitely agree the intern method isn't the best, I was more looking at the certificate (live training) method.

    As I stated, it wouldn't be my primary focus, however I am definitely going to work in this area. As animals are being more and more recognized in the health care arena (hospice, therapy dogs, etc) this will definitely take off. Animals are integrated more and more as family members. I think seeing someone with a specialty not only in grief, but in animal grief counseling will help some to be more at ease.

    You're right JN and thewesternsky- I see an underdeveloped area and I should go for it- maybe even DO the research! Thanks for the encouraging words everyone!
  9. auro

    auro 2+ Year Member

    Mar 11, 2008
    I think that's a little misleading given some very recent research on bereavement (in humans). While therapy following bereavement may not be helpful for many people, it has been shown to be helpful for those who are significantly distressed and genuinely in need of help. Relatedly, most people are able to adjust after bereavement and other traumatic events (see recent research on resilience after trauma such as G. A. Bonanno). However, these people may not the best ones to try out a treatment on.

    In terms of when bereavement tx is not helpful:
    "...on average recipients of bereavement interventions are not appreciably less distressed when compared to those who do not receive any formalized help....Contrary to treatment interventions in which clients meet some predefined criteria for psychological disorder or present a specific need for help, bereavement interventions are frequently practiced in more of a preventive manner in which little attention is given to requisite manifestations of distress.

    However, tx is helpful for some:
    "...recent studies have yielded evidence for the relative efficacy of interventions designed for complicated grievers compared to more traditional treatments, such as interpersonal (Shear, Frank, Houch, & Reynolds, 2005) and supportive psychotherapies (Boelen, de Keijser, van den Hout, & van den Bout, 2007), thereby highlighting the relevance of interventions sensitive to the needs of those showing complicated grief
    symptoms and other clinically significant indications of poor bereavement adaptation."

    I quoted an April 08 article in Psychological Bulletin entitled "The Effectiveness of Psychotherapeutic Interventions for the Bereaved: A Comprehensive Quantitative Review" by Currier, Neimeyer, & Berman.

    Also, there has been more recent research on CBT as a beneficial treatment for complicated grief.
    E.g. Boelen, Paul et al. (2007). Treatment of Complicated Grief: A Comparison Between Cognitive−Behavioral Therapy and Supportive Counseling. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
  10. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    Thanks for the links, I'll check some of them out!
  11. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    i don't feel it is misleading in the least. i believe it is misleading to utilize empirical evidence that supports the tx of COMPLICATED grief and state that this proves that normal grief can be treated as well. the tx of grief and complicated bereavement has a loooooooong history of proof/disproof. i believe that it is misleading to fail to mention these problems. and to define what we are taking about. i stated "grief therapy" has demonstrated no significant effects or iatrogenic effects. handbook of cognitive and behavioral therapies (or maybe it is handbook of psychological and behavioral therapies, i can't remember or be bothered to get it off my bookshelf) supports my statement. time magazine also had an article on this (i knwo this is basically no proof, but it is in the public eye now, so we either need to pony up the proof or abandon it).

    the basic argument from the some is that the tx can make normal grief become pathology. the proponents then counter by stating they are not treating grief, only complicated grief. then the reviewers come around and state that there is poor screening for entry to define grief, bereavement, complicated bereavement, etc. so what is being measured?

    for example:

    an RCT that shows that tx is good for complicated grief:

    Shear et al (2005).Treatment of complicated grief: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1;293(21):2601-8.

    then a bunch of others having the exact opposite effect for grief:

    Kissane et al (2006).Family Focused Grief Therapy: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Palliative Care and Bereavement. Am J Psychiatry 163:1208-1218

    then others start commenting on the methodological problems:

    Larson, D.G., & Hoyt, W.T. (2007). What has become of grief counseling? An evaluation of the empirical foundations of the new pessimism. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(4), 347–355.

    Lilienfeld, S.O. (2007). Psychological treatments that cause harm.
    Perspectives on Psychological Science,
    2, 53–70.

    so i maintain my original position that grief therapy is ineffective is empirically supported. as for complicated grief, i remain skeptical due to aforementioned methodological matters.
  12. psychanon

    psychanon 7+ Year Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    These issues aside, is there any reason why treating pet bereavement would need a different kind of training than any other kind of bereavement?
  13. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    ^ not that it would necessarily need a different treatment, but I think getting sensitized to some of the particular issues are needed. Grief following a pets death after you chose euthanasia for instance has many complicated issues surrounding it.

    Personally, I know I would have preferred to talk to someone "animal-minded" versus someone who just does standard grief and could fit me in a traditional mold. I'm not explaining it well, but I guess I'm just saying the knowledge that someone is very connected to the special animal-human bond and has taken specific classes in it puts me at ease in thinking they can better understand what I would be going through.
  14. RayneeDeigh

    RayneeDeigh 5+ Year Member

    Feb 4, 2007
    It's a nice idea... however I think someone may already have beaten you to it.

    A number of vet hospitals offer on-site counseling, and sometimes even the vets have training in pet bereavement.

    (I'm the daughter of a vet)

    Plus, you have to be careful not to expect someone to grieve the loss of a pet. Some people really don't. There are some people who cry for weeks and others who go home and do nothing out of the ordinary.

    I've also never really met anyone who really couldn't get over the loss of a pet after a little while, whereas I've definitely met people who were still grieving the loss of a human loved one years later.
  15. BellaPsyD

    BellaPsyD Correctional Psychologist 5+ Year Member

    ^ exactly what I would try to do; establish a working relationship with some veterinary offices as their "go-to" recommendation. It seem it is all about networking in life, isn't it :)

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