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Supporting Client through the loss of Companion Animals – Validating Disenfranchised Grief
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When: Thursday, July 13, 2017
6:00 - 9:00 pm
Where: NASW NYC Chapter Office
50 Broadway, Suite 1001
New York, New York  10004
United States
Presenter: Susan Dowd Stone, MSW, LCSW

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This workshop will educate mental health practitioners regarding a) the incidence and symptoms of the often intense, protracted grief felt by clients mourning companion animals, b) treatment strategies for validating and supporting unique aspects of their grieving process and c) how to form and facilitate an animal companion bereavement support group within their community and the important purpose it may serve.


According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association, 2013), New York and New Jersey have pet ownership rates of 50% of households. Given the comparative brevity of an animal’s life, it is likely that many pet stewards will experience animal companion loss. However, proportional societal and mental health support for animal companion loss is transient and rare. Such losses can present with unique features not expressed in human loss such as the guilt which follows euthanasia. Social workers are in a unique role to identify and support such losses.


Those mourning companion animals already diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders may experience intense symptom exacerbation. Suicidal ideation is not uncommon depending on the significance of the loss. Well-meaning friends and family may inadvertently invalidate the loss or convey unrealistic expectations for recovery, further shaming and alienating the mourner. As social workers who appreciate the “person in environment” context there is an opportunity to further a therapeutic alliance with such clients by encouraging discussion of their reactions without judgment. Utilizing treatment approaches such as IPT, psychodynamic or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help present useful strategies for support and recovery.


At the end of this workshop, attendees will be able to:


  • Identify 4 risk factors for complicated or prolonged grief responses in those who have lost companion animals.
  • Discuss three potential variations in reaction to loss through
  1. Euthanasia
  2. Acident
  3. Theft/or Loss of Pet
  • Name 2 therapeutic approaches which may be utilized to support and heal animal companion loss
  • Name 2 community resources for animal companion loss


Susan Dowd Stone, LCSW is the facilitator of the longest running pet bereavement group in Northern NJ at Oradell Animal Hospital, and a former trainer and team evaluator for the Delta Society. She is the founder of one of the world's top 10 online support resources for animal companion loss. She speaks on the human animal bond at veterinary conferences and conducts secondary trauma workshops for veterinary practice staff. Ms. Stone is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Silver School of Social Work at New York University, presenting courses at the graduate and post master's level on CBT, DBT and IPT. Additionally trained in trauma, EMDR and bereavement, Ms. Stone has been providing grief counseling for those mourning human and animal companions for over two decades. Ms. Stone has been a public reviewer for the National Institute of Mental Health and is a well-known, award winning therapist, author and national speaker in the field of mental health.


3 CE Contact Hours



All refund requests must be submitted by email to . Valid requests must be received no later than five days prior to course date. 


All refunds are subject to a $20.00 administrative processing fee. Credit cannot be issued toward a future program date or substituted for another workshop. Refund requests typically require 1-2 weeks processing time.

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