Pet therapy helping students and faculty better handle stress

Larissa Belo



Therapy dogs from Morristown’s Creature Comfort have been making monthly visits to FDU’s Florham Campus to help students de-stress.

Pet Therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment for people who experience stress. Its primary goal is to improve social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning, and it builds on a pre-existing bond between human and animal.

Interacting with a friendly animal can help those with physical or mental issues to improve their overfall mental health.

In addition to improving one’s well-being physically and mentally, the interaction with trained Pet Therapy animals can improve overall cardiovascular health, and also reduce blood pressure.

Due to the calming effect that visiting Pet Therapy can induce, sophomore Fidelle El-Asmar stated, “[going to Pet Therapy] really helped when I was stressed about midterms.”

Dr. Stephanie Koempel, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and a licensed professional counselor, reintroduced the program at FDU in 2014.

Koempel decided to make Pet Therapy a monthly event in order to improve students’ and faculty members’ overall health.

Therapy dogs had previously been introduced to the Florham Campus by Sarah Azavedo, director of Campus Life Operations, for midterms and finals.

Since the program was renewed, Koempel explained that she has “not seen a spike during midterms and finals” and that “the attendance is about the same each month.”

This event now occurs more often than it had in the past. In regards to the program’s frequency, Koempel said, “Pet Therapy occurs monthly due to the interest students have in the program. I have had requests that Pet Therapy occur weekly, which I will consider for future semesters.

Spending time with animals can positively affect the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of one’s well-being.

Therefore, when students visit with the certified pet therapy dogs, they have opportunities to experience these benefits here on campus.

Most students miss their pets back home so having the chance to spend some time with the therapy dogs results in many students feeling very happy.”

Shelby Wilson, a senior and a frequent visitor to Pet Therapy, said she has made a routine of going to the event because she enjoys the environment and it is a nice time to relax when her weeks become hectic.

When Koempel began hosting the Pet Therapy Program in September 2014, she shifted between Equine Therapy and dogs. Koempel “would invite the miniature horses again this semester.”

The target audience for Pet Therapy is the entire student body. She wants to help everyone better handle everyday stress.

Koempel states, “Staff and faculty are welcome as well and sometimes they do stop in for a few minutes to say ‘hi’ to the therapy dogs. It is always a surprise to the students to see which dogs will be visiting. There are some therapy dogs that regularly attend that the students are appreciative to see.”

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