Emotional Support Animals in Games: Mental Health Moment

Daniel A. Kaufmann, Ph.D
Dr. Gameology on Twitch & The Gaming Persona Podcast
Owner of Area of Effect Counseling

Join us for a recap from one of our best streaming moments in 2020. Stream moment occurred live on Twitch.tv/DrGameology while playing The Last of Us: Part 2.


Hi everyone! This is Dr. Gameology, Dr. Kaufmann if you know me from my classrooms and this is the mental health moment from my first stream of The Last of Us: Part 2.

So I just started this game, it came out this morning. A lot of fun so far. I’m getting lost and it’s just nice to problem solve and have a new kind of challenge in a video game world that’s compelling and really embraces environmental story telling.

The Mental Health Moment today, if you can hear, we’re using horses quite a lot. And not just for transportation, but I decided that it’s important for me to understand what it’s like to survive in this world if I can bond with my horse. So with the help of my chat, we named the horse Pickles. And Pickles has gotten me from beginning to where I am, and it’s been a really nice journey for me to actually connect that way.

When we name our pets, or we name animals that we’re working with, it helps for that bond, it helps for that connection. But I also want to talk about equine therapy. This is a really interesting way to pursue a kind of therapy for different problems and stress management that people have. Actually, I’ve referred hundreds of people to a treatment facility, it’s actually a home where they stay for a month, or a month and a half where they’re trying to stop their gambling addiction. And in order to reconnect with life on the basic level with biology, and with community, with the other living things around us, including nature, they will engage in an activity called equine therapy. This is where you spend time bonding with a horse, guiding it through its day, helping it fulfill its needs, and just going back to basics.

And I think a lot of our stress in life comes from us not really understanding what those basic needs are and then the difference between those needs and the aspirations; If we’re unable to fulfill the, aspirations are then unrealistic drives. Then we can get hung up, we can try to take control of things that we have no power to control, and that can lead to addictions and other neuroses, and all kinds of other anxiety issues.

Emotional Support: Using the three key words from the Serenity Prayer can help a person learn to let go of things they are unable to control. This is an important step in achieving mindfulness in our approaches for life.

So whether you enjoy riding horses or spending time with them, you might have a fur baby in your life, a dog or a cat, something that you can reach over, give it a hug spend time with it, connect eye to eye, and just go back to those basics as a way to release your tension and anxiety.

So I want to open up people’s minds to these possibilities today. We see mental health support animals all over the place in society now, and I just wanted to lend my endorsement to talk about those for a little bit of time, whether it’s dogs and cats, or horses in equine therapy.

That’s the mental health moment and everyone thanks for watching. I’d like to encourage all of you to …

Continue The Journey!


Note to Readers: The very next minute of gameplay after recording this talk led to the unfortunate loss of Shimmer (the horse we named Pickles). RIP Shimmer, and thank you for the companionship you gave us. We survived because of you.

Emotional Support Animals: Ellie riding Shimmer in one of the opening segments of The Last of Us: Part 2. Image Credit – Naughty Dog (2020)


DiGiacomo, S. M. (2016). My horse is not my therapist: embodied communicative practices and the construction of meaning in dressage. In The Meaning of Horses (pp. 129-142). Routledge.

Reich, J. W. (2015). Mastering yourself, mastering your world: Living by the serenity prayer. John Hunt Publishing.

Transcript completed by Shara B. (Moderator for the Dr. Gameology Twitch Channel).

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