Miami student counseling offers dog therapy sessions twice weekly


Photo by Skyler Perry

Petting Duck the dog provides good therapy at Miami’s Student Counseling Services.

By Skyler Perry

While most people find peace in petting a pooch, not everyone has access to a dog in Oxford. However, through Miami’s Student Counseling Service (SCS), Miamians can attend dog therapy sessions twice a week throughout the semester. 

During dog therapy sessions, Miami students, faculty, and staff can stop in and pet a licensed therapy dog. There are typically two dogs in the Harris Hall sessions, which occur from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays, in room 118.  

Jennifer Young, assistant director for outreach and programming at the Student Counseling Service, said attending a dog therapy session can help decrease anxiety and homesickness, while also releasing endorphins which benefit mood and heart rate. 

“Oftentimes I see students that are dealing with really, really difficult situations and they’re very depressed or anxious or dealing with some really hard times so to see them so positive… it’s just a lot of fun [and] there’s a lot of laughter,” Young said. 

Walk-in dog therapy sessions are available two afternoons a week at Miami’s Student Counseling Services. Photo by Skyler Perry

According to SCS’s website, the primary goal of dog therapy sessions is to provide comfort, increase well-being, promote healing, and improve the quality of life for anyone attending the sessions. While you don’t need to have a mental health concern to attend, dog therapy can also benefit people with depression or who are experiencing loneliness. 

Young said that the SCS feels it is important to ensure that these dog therapy sessions are accessible to everyone, regardless of income level, so attending these sessions is free of charge.  

“We never want financial stress to be the reason why people cannot improve their mental health,” Young said. 

Part of the reason why SCS doesn’t have to charge any fees for dog therapy attendance is that many of the therapy dogs are owned by people around the area. 

Marilyn Coffey is one of the dog handlers for SCS. She lives near the Middletown area and is the owner of a six-year-old black lab therapy dog named Duck. Coffey said she just began bringing Duck to the SCS sessions this semester. 

“Volunteering is good to do, and it helps me share my dog,” Coffey said. “I think petting a dog is calming.”   

Senior computer science major Kabir Arora attended a dog therapy session Thursday, Feb. 17. Arora said that he has a dog at home that he misses, so he enjoyed hanging out with Duck. 

Arora had heard of the event through Miami’s marketing efforts and decided to stop in. After about half an hour, Arora declared that he would come back for another session. 

“It’s fun, you get to pet dogs, and Duck is amazing,” Arora said. 

First-year chemistry and sustainability major Olivia Robinson also attended the session Thursday. She said that she chose to go because she had had a difficult week academically. After petting Duck for a bit, she said that she would recommend others attend the sessions if they have the chance. 

“It’s not too time-consuming and it definitely makes a difference in your day,” Robinson said.  

Young said that anyone planning to attend one of these sessions doesn’t need to bring anything with them, but they should avoid carrying food into the room as it can distract the dog. 

“Just be prepared to welcome that dog, because that dog is going to welcome you with open paws and a wagging tail and maybe even a lick in the face,” Young said. 

Anyone interested in having private dog therapy sessions for their residence hall, group, or organization can make a request through the SCS website.