A Proposal for Eliminating the Chronic Shortage of Mental Health Service Providers: Hounds as Humanists

Wayne R. Bartz, Ph.D.
American River College

Roger E. Volger, Ph.D.
Pomona College

We, at the Institute of Exotica-Erotica-Bullotica, are not the first psychotherapists to note the disparity between idealistic humanistic goals for society and the realistic shortage of therapists needed to help achieve those goals. Since the announcement of our first institute program (Bartz, 1970), there has been continued interest in Bullotica-Therapy (often called “Bull-Therapy,” for short). Over the years, we have trained hundreds of Bull-Therapists, but have remained acutely aware of the need for many more. We have come to believe that it is the long and arduous psychotherapy training program, itself, which may be in some way responsible for the shortage of mental health service providers. For instance, the minimum work for a neophyte Bull-Therapist involves weeks of study, observation, supervision, and $$$$$$$. Moreover, we understand that some therapeutic approaches take months to learn and require a college degree besides! Clearly, simply expanding the enrollment size of existing training programs is not the answer to the chronic therapist shortage problem. Fortunately, we have stumbled (literally) upon an innovative and effective solution, a discovery that means the immediate availability of a new cadre of helping professionals, therapists who not only serve as ideal examples of the self-actualized individual, but who also have many practical advantages over the conventional humanistic therapist. We propose the use of hounds as humanists.

A total break with tradition, our discovery may initially sound alarming, but we are confident that an unbiased examination of the pros and cons will convince the most doubting skeptic. For example, the importance of openly expressing feelings is well know, yet years of negative socialization puts many of us right out of touch with our true feelings. In stark contrast, hounds universally express their feelings quite naturally. They do not repress, suppress, or deny, but give clear outward expression to all emotion via tail-wagging, licking, howling, and whining. Most important, this new group of therapists is characterized by an innate ability to consistently express unconditional positive regard, an attribute widely recognized in the popular label, “Man’s best friend.” In short, hounds naturally and without need of training or personal therapy possess the essential trait of a true humanistic therapist: loving, accepting openness.

Nuts and bolts training problems and expenses are minimal. Unlike traditional psychology graduate students, who tend to bog down in intellectualization and scientism, our new therapists intuitively are able to break free of the confining limits imposed by the tired scientific method. They rarely ask embarrassing questions, such as “What is your operational definition?” They never waste time designing experiments, nor do they petulantly pester supervisors with demands for “data” (whatever that means). Few even own a statistics book and we have yet to see one programming a computer. In short, they have the basic open intellectual and philosophical outlook so essential to the good humanist. The actual cost of training is markedly reduced compared to traditional university programs, since grants and assistantships are unnecessary – just a few weeks of cheap dogfood and they are ready to begin work. (In contrast, graduate students have been known to require years of cheap dogfood.)

An additional plus is that our new therapists are the only candidates we have ever encountered (excuse the pun) who are instantly comfortable in nude therapy. Their totally uninhibited approach is often just the catalyst needed to relax the neophytes entering a nude group (we have noted that a hound licking its genitals is a real icebreaker).

Scheduling therapy hours for hounds is remarkably easy. They rarely demand prime time vacations and are available on call, without reluctance, 24 hours a day, making them great for emergency crisis intervention. (However, they are not recommended for telephone hotlines.) An added bonus beyond scheduling ease is that hounds work even cheaper than marriage-family therapists (most of whom demand more than an occasional doggy-bone).

Innovation often breeds further innovation. One of the noteworthy offshoots of our hound discovery is the “humanist in your home” program. Our clients take their therapist home during difficult periods for a modest rental fee ($5.00 per day – a marked savings over sending out a social worker). When the client returns home after a hard day’s work, our therapist waits with open paws at the door. Love, understanding, compassion, unconditional positive regard – all the essentials for a meaningful relationship are instantly available. Crass as it may sound, a further advantage is that clients can purchase these remarkable therapists. For example, particularly unactualized clients can take a wholesome hound home permanently for an intense, long-term, live-in experience (we call it “life-therapy”).

As with any innovative therapeutic method, there are some disadvantages to hounds as humanists, but the list is pleasantly short. First, institutional budget directors have sometimes expressed reluctance to purchase essential work materials, such as Milkbones, dog chow, flea powder, and worm pills. However, we have discovered that, if it is made very clear in purchase orders that these supplies are required for humanistic therapists, they are rarely questioned.

Because of their open expression of emotion, particularly joy, humanist-hounds sometimes, unfortunately, manifest the intensity of feelings by peeing on the floor. This occurs about twice as often with hounds as it does with our regular therapists. We handle both situations in the same way: push their noses in it. Another practical concern is that hounds are, by nature, quite hairy, and a failure to bathe regularly can lead to atmospheric problems in small therapy rooms. However, the fact is that hounds, today, are generally less hairy than most of our regular humanistic therapists, and many clients have actually expressed a clear preference for the hounds in tight quarters.

A minor disadvantage with hounds is the occasional use of questionable judgment in responding to important therapeutic material. They may interrupt a client in mid-sentence with a sloppy lick across the mouth and have been observed to curl up and fall asleep in the midst of gut-spilling revelations. Even more disconcerting, at certain periods in their lives, hounds have an upsetting tendency to impulsively hump the legs of clients during or after therapy sessions. Most regular humanistic therapists are much more accurate and rarely hit just the legs.

A word of caution concerning particular hounds. We have found that the almost total lack of responsiveness and minimal signs of life in Bassett Hounds limits their suitability for working with all but the most animated clients, who thrive with little therapist feedback. For this reason, we are exploring Bassett Hound’s effectiveness in psychoanalytic therapy and the use of other breeds where they might be naturally well-suited. For example, we are finding Dobermans to be excellent as behavior therapists (for obvious reasons) and Chihuahuas seem to work well as Rational-Emotive therapists. The possibilities boggle the mind.

The Institute staff believe that the unique problems of our new approach will, in time, be fully overcome. We are confident that most open-minded therapists will agree that these compassionate and feeling therapists are indeed ideal models of perfect personhood. This untapped resource of canine therapists could eventually help us attain the ultimate humanistic goals of universal self-actualization, love, riches, harmony, health, world peace, and a good 25-cent beer.



Bartz, W.R. (1970). Summer program: Institute for Exotica-Erotica-Bullotica. Worm Runner’s Digest, 12, 66-67.

© Copyright 1985 Wry-Bred Press, Inc./Glenn Ellenbogen. All rights reserved.

Return to the sample articles page