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.

Quick Links

Find Authors

Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

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…)

Psychotherapy as Healing through Conversation

July 27, 2015

Tags: therapy

One of the things that makes the relationship between a psychotherapist and his or her client or patient therapeutic is the healing power of relatively unguarded conversation.

When therapy goes as it is intended, the therapist creates a safe, warm , kind, and protected environment. In this protected environment, the patient or client can allow (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…)

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…)

How Your Dog Can Help Your Child be Mindful

June 18, 2015

Tags: children, dogs, therapy

I’ve written previously, as have many others, about the ways in which meditation and mindfulness practices can help children. One built in problem, a sort of Catch-22 is that those children who most need to learn to calm themselves and to focus their minds are those least likely to want to sit still, (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…)

Sibling Rivalry in Young Children

June 8, 2015

Tags: children, therapy

Parents of preschoolers are often worried about sibling rivalry. Here I will answer questions that journalists, parents in my office, and those attending my talks and workshops have asked.

My children sometimes squabble just before dinner. Is this normal?

The answer to this depends on how often your children squabble, (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy? Dimension 2: Psychology

June 8, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy, therapy

Of the 4 dimensions of Contextual Therapy (CT), this one will be the most familiar to many readers. The dimension of psychology comprises all those factors that we normally associate with personality, with psychological distress, and with psychotherapy. Unlike many other family systems therapies, contextual therapy pays careful attention to the individual people who make (more…)

What is Sibling Rivalry?

June 4, 2015

Tags: sibling rivalry, therapy, children

What is Sibling Rivalry?

As some readers of this blog may know, I’ve devoted a lot of time to thinking and writing about this question (Beyond Sibling Rivalry, Why Can’t We Get Along) and have only recently figured out how to share my expertise in bite-sized chunks that you can read while drinking a (more…)

Children and Families #5: Mindfulness Meditation for Children

June 3, 2015

Tags: children, mindfulness, therapy, anxiety, fears

Helping Your Child be Mindful and Calm

In the past 10 or 20 years, meditation, once associated only with Eastern religious practice, has morphed into “mindfulness meditation,” but it is still the same practice, and it still has the same goals. The practice involves focus, slowing heartbeat and breathing, and observing both internal and external experience. (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 #1

June 1, 2015

Tags: therapy, children, animal assisted therapy, dogs

I decided to start this series of posts because of what I has observed going on in therapy and counseling between my patients and my dogs: first a small white dog who I still insist was a petit basset griffon Vendeen (PBGV) who had wandered away from home until she found (more…)

Children and Families #4: Asperger Syndrome

June 17, 2014

Tags: children, therapy

Understanding Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome, like autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. it cannot be cured, but children, adolescents, and adults with Asperger Syndrome can learn techniques that will help them compensate for their disability. In 1944, a pediatrician named Hans Asperger described a group of children with at least average intelligence who had marked interpersonal (more…)