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Mental health: De-stress with therapy dogs

The NDSU Counseling Center provides a confidential setting where students can express personal and academic concerns that may be preventing them from feeling their best. Services at the center are free for NDSU students. There is no limit on how many sessions or programs you can schedule.

A unique program the center offers is called Pawsitive Relaxation. The calming setting allows students to spend the afternoon with dogs Oliver, Watson and Scout while they learn about ways to manage stress. The dogs provide students with emotional support, comfort and smiles. 

“When dogs feel relaxed, comfortable and safe enough to engage in play, our brains automatically begin releasing chemical messengers throughout our body. This allows our brains to relax, and not feel as ‘on edge’ in our environments,” says Amber Bach-Gorman, counselor and assistant director of the center.

Along with Pawsitive Relaxation, the dogs often visit residence halls, partner with program planning and attend therapy events at the library.  Bach-Gorman urges students to interact with the dogs if they are on campus.

More than 50 students were surveyed last year about their attitudes toward NDSU’s volunteer therapy teams and Pawsitive Relaxation:​

  • 87 percent of the respondents indicated they attend the events specifically to interact with the therapy dogs.​
  • Prior to event, 70 percent knew about the center but had never used it. ​
  • 99 percent of respondents said event they would be likely to refer a friend to services after attending the event.​
  • 99 percent of respondents said they also would be likely to use the services themselves. ​ 

There are many other de-stressing group programs that the NDSU Counseling Center offers for students, including mindfulness and meditation workshops, art therapy, graduate student support groups, equine therapy and emotional fitness workshops.

You can call the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment for group and individual sessions. No struggle is too big or small. There are many resources on campus that are designed to help.


Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
Campus address: Old Main 204
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