These days, video calls like Zoom give us windows into each other’s homes. During my distance sessions, this has often meant not only getting to meet my clients’ pets, but also including them as part of the session. And it’s been wonderful.
Clients often apologize for their animal’s presence. They’ve closed the door and told the kids or husband to stay out, but they just can’t shut out the dog or cat. Or sometimes my client doesn’t mention the pet, but then a curious, sniffing dog nose appears at the camera or a cat butt blocks my view. (It’s always a cat.)
No matter how animals show up, I’m always secretly glad to have them. Pets are rarely a disruption. And they add so much to the work.
Finding our way into settling…
Animals are much like us going into a session. At the start, they can be unsettled. They may be restless, vying for attention, or just trying out different spots on the bed.
I always advise we simply allow the animal to find its own way and focus on you and your body. As you slow down, your companion will too. Animals love the calm of a healing session and typically melt into it.
By the same token, pets can be amazing at helping their people settle. I’ve seen panicked clients hold a paw until they could breathe, dissociated clients cuddle an animal until they could feel their own body, and stressed clients who were stuck in their heads start to ground after the pet left their upper body and curled up at their feet.
Deepening the settling…
As the session progresses, pets usually settle with us and become deeply relaxed. The two nervous systems—animal and other animal (you)—reinforce each other. One system calms, which calms the other, which calms the first more deeply, and so on in a dance of co-regulation.
Offering an assist…
Once deeper settling occurs, the client’s body often starts healing something specific. I’ve found pets can be instrumental with this, especially if the body’s shifting something stuck or scary.
Many of our animal friends are astute healers. Pets often lie down next to the body part that hurts. They help energetically hold the space. And they sometimes pop into my mind’s eye, showing images of how they’re helping, like the time I found myself “holding” two cat paws that grounded the client enough to resolve a trauma piece.
Our pets are incredibly attuned to (and affected by) our stress, emotions, and health. And most often, they truly, deeply love us and will do anything they can to help us heal.