Friday, October 7, 2022

Oberlin-based Healing Companions Trains Shelter Dogs to Become Psychiatric Service Dogs

When she was in the fourth grade, Jane Miller returned home from school one day and announced her career ambition.

“I told my mother I wanted to be Jane Goodall,” Jane said. “So I guess what’s so interesting about my life is that I never knew where the path was going to lead me, but I wanted to somehow save the lives of animals and transform the lives of humans.”

Jane Goodall is a primatologist most known for her long-term study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania. Jane Miller is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of Healing Companions, an Oberlin-based nonprofit she launched 20 years ago. Jane trains shelter dogs to become psychiatric service dogs and help clients struggling with severe mental illnesses to function in society.

“As a therapist, all the work in the world, all of the therapy in the world, doesn’t get you up out of bed in the morning, but a dog does,” Jane said. “To see clients be able to function at a much higher level than I ever dreamt they’d be able to, and they ever dreamt they would be able to, is really the gift of Healing Companions.”

How can psychiatric service dogs transform the lives of humans? How can the human-animal bond benefit both humans and animals?

These two common questions are answered in webinars hosted by our Executive Director, Jane Miller:

The first webinar, “Dogs Have Issues Too: Helping Dogs Cope With Stress” (, goes into detail about several stress reduction/relaxation techniques for both humans and dogs along with monitoring methods. This webinar is a very basic introduction to stress reduction/relaxation techniques covering the definition of stress, eustress, and distress, as well as the pros and cons of various relaxation techniques. An extensive list of videos, links, references, articles, websites, diagrams, etc. will also be provided!

The second webinar, “Psychiatric Service Dogs – Healing Companions” (, is designed to educate dog trainers, mental health professionals, and everyone impacted by mental illness in navigating the complicated world of psychiatric service dogs. Jane also navigates through the complexities of the laws, terminology, and extensive misinformation presented in the media alongside the basics of what qualifications are needed.

The third webinar, “Healing Companions: Psychiatric Service Dogs and Their Power To Transform Lives” (, explains what psychiatric service dogs are and how they differ from other service dogs. She will explain strategies that ensure that both the clients’ AND animals’ needs are addressed.

Additional useful information is provided about stress in service dogs, task training, and resources available. 

To learn more from Jane about psychiatric service dogs, and Healing Companions, visit

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