Potential benefits

Valuing of emotional bonds

Connections within group

Remembering and sharing stories

Resources needed

Pictures or small objects of pets

Songs such as “How much is that doggie in the window”; “Oh where, oh where is my little dog gone”; from the musical “Cats”


  1. The theme of animals may have come from previous work, such as Signs of the Zodiac. Revisit these, and then introduce the new theme, perhaps through song
  2. Offer pictures or small objects of pet animals and invite people to engage with them
  3. Invite each group member to choose one object or picture on which to focus
  4. Bring to the group thoughts around senses i.e., the smell, sound, look or feel of the pet – and explore these
  5. Take it in turns to share the story of that animal, whether it is a reminiscence or a created story in the moment
  6. Take photos of the objects used, and (later) copy any pictures, and note down the stories and memories shared
  7. Be mindful that some of the memories may bring up feelings around loss, and work carefully to hold this, taking time to end this part of the session with care and consideration


Add to the book the pictures and comments, engaging the group to stick in their own pictures if they wish. The images and comments in the book, particularly around memories of pets, can be re-visited and re-shared, and can be added to if anything more emerges over the following weeks.

Further sessions

Exploration on this theme might lead to sharing fictional stories about pets: Lassie; Snoopy; 101 Dalmatians; Tom in Tom and Jerry; Garfield.

The theme of animals can be further explored through focusing on animals other than pets – wild animals, working animals, Aesop’s fables, animal folk tales such as the Town Musicians of Bremen, the poetry of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, especially Macavity the Mystery Cat.

The client’s response

“It is nice to talk about the pets”

“I always had dogs – I like them all”

“We talked about various things, animals, cats and dogs, tried on different masks and had our photographs taken”

Fond memories, amusing tales of escapades, sad stories of loss – many tales are shared through this theme. Usually the pet is a remembered pet, but occasionally there is a pet in the home or centre, and cats in particular have joined and been part of a session. The cat sometimes becomes a therapeutic presence – stroking the cat can ease strong feelings, and also enables clients to share their love. If the cat is a regular part of the session, and is absent, this can lead to sharing of other absences.

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