Mental Health Practitioner

Women & Dog

The Relevance of the Link for Mental Health Practitioners

Since community based mental health settings provide services to a wide spectrum of the population, they are in a unique position to interact with individuals impacted in some way by animal maltreatment and the Link. Professionals aware of the Link are more able to accurately identify, assess and intervene with Link issues in children, adolescents and adults. Given that animal cruelty may act as a sentinel for more overt forms of violence or dysfunction, appropriate intervention by mental health practitioners can play a vital role in sustaining public safety and welfare.

An understanding of the human-animal bond is critical for mental health practitioners. This knowledge can provide insight into the risk and protective factors present in an individual’s environment. In addition, mental health practitioners with expertise in animal-assisted therapy interventions can capitalize on the strength of the human-animal bond to benefit clients that are amenable to such interventions.

Mental health practitioners may see the Link manifest in a variety of ways including:

  • Extreme levels of callousness toward living creatures, both human and animal
  • Violent behavior toward animals and humans that may be predictive of future violence
  • Conduct disorders in children and adolescents with animal maltreatment as a diagnostic feature
  • Grief and loss issues related to animal companions
  • Trauma associated with witnessing or participating in animal maltreatment
  • Post-traumatic stress issues related to witnessing or participating in animal maltreatment
  • Anxiety, fear and phobia related to negative experiences with animals
  • Debilitating mental health conditions affecting an individual’s ability to care for animals and other dependents

Learn more about the Link and mental health.   

Ramifications for Mental Health Practice

Mental health practitioners are encouraged to:

  • explore the relationships and experiences their clients have had with animals
  • utilize animal related inquiry to gain clinical data relevant to the client’s ecosystem and experiences
  • assess and identify animal related risk and protective factors in a client’s ecosystem
  • familiarize themselves with the Link and the human-animal bond
  • learn about dangerousness factors in animal cruelty offenders
  • learn about animal cruelty risk levels
  • familiarize themselves with Colorado animal cruelty statutes and protective orders
  • utilize animal cruelty offense specific evaluations for court ordered animal cruelty offenders
  • obtain consultation from animal cruelty specialists when appropriate
  • obtain release when possible to engage in cross-reporting