Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP: Child, Adult, & Family Psychology

Selected Works by Dr. Goldenthal

Nonfiction
A parenting book providing answers to questions about sibling conflicts
Professional Book
This book presents the theory, concepts, and techniques of Contextual Therapy, a unique and powerful thereapeutic approach especially suited to helping children and adolescents.

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Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

How to Whisper and Listen to Your Dog Part 1

December 21, 2015

Tags: Therapy, human-dog bond, dog whisperer

As I was leaving my monthly dog trainers’ meeting, I had the sudden realization that training dogs to behave better is far too limited a goal. Your dog can do better than that. You and your dog can do better than that. You may be (more…)

You, Your Dog, Your Attachment Style, and Your Healing

September 18, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond, attachment, therapy

Each of us has his or her way of forming attachments to other people. This “attachment pattern” develops during infancy and early childhood and persists throughout life. Although you can’t do very much to change your attachment pattern, sometimes called an “attachment style,” you (more…)

These Dogs Changed a Life

September 17, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy

Jake told me how his dogs Lucy and Alice, both Chihuahua mix rescue dogs, have changed his life. “I didn’t even realize that I had as much of an anxiety problem before I had dogs. Lucy softened me up so much and I didn’ (more…)

Finding Your Special Canine Companion

September 1, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, attachment

Much of what happens between person and dog seems magical. Someone loses a dog, visits a shelter, and as if by chance, comes home with the perfect canine companion. Many people say, as if channeling the wand maker in Harry Potter, “the person doesn’t choose the dog, the dog chooses the person.”

This (more…)

FAQ– Therapeutic Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Service Dogs

August 31, 2015

Tags: therapy, dogs, human-dog bond

My posts over the past weeks have focused on some of the many ways that the bond between person and dog can be mutually therapeutic. Today, I’m going to switch gears to address a semantic question: what is the difference between a dog being (more…)

Animal Assisted Contextual Therapy

August 20, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, pet therapy, contextual therapy

Those who are familiar with my writings about contextual therapy, whether in books or blog posts, may be wondering how my more recent writing about the human-dog bond and about pet therapy–and animal assisted therapy– are connected to contextual therapy.

The answer is straight forward, and it takes us back to the core (more…)

Bonding through Training

August 20, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, training, pet therapy

Working with your dog, whether it's practicing sitting and staying or learning a new trick, is a great way to strengthen the bond between you. Choose an activity that lets your dog stretch his or her mind, that is within their capabilities, and includes lots (more…)

Maximizing Your Own and Your Dog’s Therapeutic Potential

August 17, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, pet therapy

The more experience one has as a psychotherapist, the more one comes to rely on one’s personal attributes and one’s relationships with patients.

Early in most therapists’ careers, graduate training has a huge influence. Most psychology training programs, especially those that are part of research universities, emphasize the importance of acquiring theoretical (more…)

A Disabled Dog with a Special Ability

August 16, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, pet therapy, animal assisted therapy

Today I’m going to relate the story of how a very special dog helped his person learn to be more socially engaged. Hank, a coon hound, had been found by the side of the road in Arkansas, starving and with a huge infection in his leg–the result of having been used for (more…)

Your Dog may be more Therapeutic than You Know

August 9, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, pet therapy

How often do you say or hear something like this,” I can’t believe it. He (or she) is my little buddy. He follows me around and he cares where I am.” ?

Or perhaps this is more familiar, “Even when I hate the rest of my family, I still love my dog.”?

To my (more…)

Your Dog Prefers People Who are Kind to You

August 7, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy

A group of psychologists in Japan have found that dogs choose not to make contact with people who exhibit behaviors that are unhelpful to their owners.

What does this mean for people who are interested in enhancing their relationships with their canine companions?

I believe that it means several things. Dogs are very aware (more…)

Intimacy and the Human Dog bond Part Two

July 29, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, dogs, pet therapy

That experience with Gita and the Beaver Pond has been alive in my mind for a long time. I’ve re-imagined it, and I’ve wondered what made it click. I incorporated it into a story for children and have tried to make it happen again by going into (more…)

Intimacy, Nature, and the Human-Dog Bond

July 29, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, dogs

Intimacy–whether between two people or between person and dog– opens people up to new experiences, it connects people, and it helps people explore new aspects of themselves.

Many years ago, I experienced a magical moment watching a beaver build a dam in a small pond in the woods (more…)

On Intimacy, comfort, and bonding

July 22, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment, therapy, pet therapy


As I write this, I am sitting on my sofa with Sasha, all 23 pounds of her, curled up so close to me that a piece of onion skin wouldn’t slide between us. Sasha is a particularly social dog, but to lie motionless as she is while I write is unusual. It would be (more…)

Any Dog Can Be a Therapy Dog

July 21, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, pet therapy

Your dog may not be suited to being an official therapy dog, one of those dogs who visits patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities. However, he or she can be, and probably is therapeutic for you, perhaps in ways you don’t always notice.

I’ve written previously about the reciprocal (more…)

Empathy and the Human-Dog Bond

July 20, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment

Puppy Love
Empathy, the ability to see and feel the world from another person’s perspective, is a crucial ingredient in all intimate relationships. Over 20,000 years, dogs have developed this capacity, some to a truly remarkable degree.

Most children are naturally empathic. They can learn to be even more empathic, and to have empathy even under (more…)

A Recipe for Attachment

July 19, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, attachment

All close and mutually trusting relationships are alike, whether they are between two people or between a person and a member of another species. Many species are very social, but dogs are the most social of the species that live with people, and the one that has lived with people for the longest time, perhaps for 20,000 (more…)

Attachment, Therapy, and the Human-Dog Bond

July 10, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond

The capacity to form a close and secure attachment is important to having a fulfilling life. And yet, many people of all ages have huge problems with attachment. Some very young children–and I’m speaking here of children 18 months and younger–lack the experience of having an adult who is always there, always (more…)

What is Animal Assisted Therapy for Children?

July 9, 2015

Tags: therapy, children, human-dog bond, animal assisted therapy, pet therapy

In my practice, animal-assisted therapy has a specific meaning: applying knowledge of the unique bond that can between people and dogs, as well as the great interpersonal skills of Sasha, my canine partner and an unusually sensitive daschund-mix.

My youngest patients connect instantly with Sasha, who eagerly greets them with a wagging tail and, (more…)

Why You Should Stop Trying to be the "Alpha"

June 23, 2015

Tags: dogs, alpha, human-dog bond

This just-published article explains why trying to be your dog's alpha is based on lots of misinformation and is altogether a bad idea. You can read the complete article on the "Books & Articles " page of this website. The article also appears in the summer issue of "The Chronicle of the Dog," the official publication (more…)

A Father’s Day Game for You and Your Dog

June 21, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond

Games are a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. When your dog is playing with you, he or she is bonding and strengthening your existing bond. Play is a way of affirming that there is no aggression between you and (contrary to popular opinion) no dominance either. For your (more…)

I and Thou applies to you and your dog too.

June 15, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, alpha

Sasha and her doctor
No, I’m not talking about a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou; that’s Omar Kyam. This I and Thou comes from the writings of Martin Buber, a writer and philosopher who lived from 1878 to 1965. Buber made a huge distinction between I and it encounters (that’s the way we (more…)

People and Dogs: Companions for 20,000 Years

June 14, 2015

Tags: animal assisted therapy, human-dog bond

Dogs have lived around people for longer than has any other domesticated animal: 20,000 years is regarded as a reasonable estimate. That’s long before the invention of agriculture, long before there was any written language. It’s the time of hunter-gatherers; a time before there is any historical record. Current scientific thinking is that (more…)

What is a Therapeutic Relationship?

June 8, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, pet therapy, animal assisted therapy

The obvious answer to the question posed in the title of this post is: “A therapeutic relationship is the relationship between therapist and a client or patient.” We hope that all patient-therapist and client-therapist relationships are therapeutic, but that answer is, if not circular, close to it: it begs the question. What makes a (more…)

Creating a Mutually Therapeutic Relationship with Your Dog

June 8, 2015

Tags: dogs, therapy, therapy, human-dog bond

Not so very long ago, even the title of this post would have raised eyebrows in professional circles. Times have changed in very positive ways, however, and for the better. My article on animal assisted therapy will soon be published in “Currents” the publication of the Philadelphia Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology, (more…)

Dogs and Therapy#6: What is negative reinforcement?

June 7, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

In this post, I’ll continue my discussion of animal learning as it applies to making choices that will make you and your dog happy together. In my previous post about learning, I wrote about positive reinforcers. There are also negative reinforcers. Just as positive reinforcers do, so too do negative reinforcers increase the (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #5: Learning Can be Fun for You and Your Dog

June 5, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

People who live with a dog and want to have a great relationship with that dog want the dog to be well behaved, but they don’t want to hurt their relationship to get there. Rather, they would like the learning process to be on that is enjoyable for both human and dog and (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #4: Mindfulness

June 2, 2015

Tags: mindfulness, dogs, human-dog bond, therapy, animal assisted therapy

Many people are interested in learning to be in the moment, to experience their inner life and their surroundings without the intrusion of the constant stream of thought that accompanies each of us everywhere. One path to this kind of immediate awareness is through the increasingly popular practice of meditation. A complementary path involves (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #3: Dog Parks

June 1, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

Several months ago, I visited a local dog park with Sasha, the 16-month-old Daschund mix who has become my constant companion and a valued co-therapist in my psychology practice.

We had been enjoying the sunny and mild fall day for an hour or so when I saw an American Bulldog wagging its tail at the other end of the park. (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #2: Dogs and Wolves

June 1, 2015

Tags: dogs, animal assisted therapy, human-dog bond

When I think about how Sasha comforts my patients, and how they speak of their pets with such affection, I am reminded of the often repeated assertion that dogs and wolves are extremely closely related, behaviorally and genetically. And yet, the qualities that make Sasha and other companion dogs so companionable don’t seem (more…)