Parrots As Animal Assisted Therapy

parrots and peopleI received an email from a woman interested in writing a guest post on For Parrots. I asked her what she had in mind and she suggested a few topics, one of which was Animal Assisted Therapy as it relates to parrots. This sounded great, and I agreed because I felt it was a wonderful opportunity to further education about parrots with those who are new to the subject (ie. the woman who emailed me: she would have to research the topic), and also because I thought it was an interesting idea: those who know parrots know how empathetic they are, and we have multiple stories to prove this. She and I had a good time discussing parrot issues back and forth, and in the end we both gained a greater appreciation for the intelligence of parrots. My sincere thanks to Marcela for writing such a compassionate and interesting post!


Parrots As Animal Assisted Therapy

Guest post by Marcela De Vivo

Furry friends have always been known to improve our moods when we’re feeling down, but a pet-assisted therapy doesn’t only have to be in the form of a cute cat or dog. Parrots are intelligent creatures that can bring joy into one’s home, given that an owner is willing to take the time and effort to care for these empathetic birds.

In some cases, parrots have been able to help those with mental or physical disorders work with and overcome their conditions. Jim Eggers, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies, would have a habit of becoming “Hulk”-like during his mood swings, disrupting the public peace, damaging property and hurting people.

Since Eggers knew he could be dangerous, he wanted to take steps to improve his personal situation. Having always been an animal lover, Eggers had the opportunity to purchase an African Grey Parrot, named Sadie – this turned out to be a life-altering decision for the better.

Sadie made for a fun, loyal companion – she, like many birds, was very intelligent and could imitate words she would hear from Eggers. She would go everywhere with him too since Eggers had registered her as a service animal (as of 2011, however, only dogs are recognized to be service animals). She bonded quickly with him, to the point of having the ability to placate his dangerous mood swings.

Whenever Eggers would feel an episode was about to happen, he tried to control his mood by saying “calm down” aloud to himself. Eventually, with Sadie being in hearing distance, Sadie began repeating these same words to Eggers, “Calm down.” This would immediately bring Eggers out of his state and bring him back in control.

During one particular bout when Eggers felt an episode brewing, Sadie was the first to speak up. Sadie’s instinct was both shocking and amazing to Eggers, although to Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a noted scientist who studies and works closely with parrots, the bird’s words come to no surprise.

While Eggers’ case where a bird helps a person with bipolar disorder is rare, Dr. Pepperberg says birds look out for one another and their owners. Sadie could sense that her owner was not in his stable state, so she acted upon that knowledge to calm him down and get him comfortable.

To say the least, Sadie has saved Eggers’ life.

While a bird can do so much for an owner such as Eggers, it is important to note that an owner equally needs to do much for the bird, as taking care of parrots is a demanding task that may not be for everyone. A would-be owner needs to ask one’s self if s/he can genuinely put in the time, effort, and heart into taking care of these intelligent and beautiful creatures.

The owners of “On a Wing and a Prayer,” understand the hard work and love that goes into taking care of parrots, and they can vouch for the soothing power of birds.

A pet-assisted therapy program in Oklahoma dedicated to working with birds, owners Maureen Horton and Joyce Legere can see that the birds bring their clients, those in nursing homes and other rehabilitation facilities, back to a softened state – those who wouldn’t talk begin to speak again, and hardened criminals are like children in awe when they see and want to pet a bird.

There are other examples of how the healing benefits can be mutual. In 2007, NPR ran a story of war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and they worked in a sanctuary with abused birds. The relationship was symbiotic for the birds and the veterans as they were all coping with what they had experienced, and were on the path to recovery with one another’s help.

Through animal assisted therapy programs or having them as pets, parrots can bring about a world of good and happiness; but as the relationship has to be mutual, an owner has to be willing to bring about a world of love, goodness, and happiness into the parrot’s world as well. If one is able, ready, and willing to care for a parrot knowing the hard work that goes into the task, parrots could make great companions.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance health writer and proud mother of three in Southern California. As a mother of a special needs child, she has tried several different therapies and encourages other parents of special needs children to do so as well. You can follow her journey by visiting


15 Responses to Parrots As Animal Assisted Therapy

  1. Lynnette Swanson September 8, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    When my spouse was hospitalized in a rehabilitation hospital after brain surgery, the psychologist in charge allowed me to bring his favorite parrot in for visits. The decision was made to help my spouse have a better attitude, work harder in therapy, and give him access to our parrot, an African Grey, who would talk to my spouse, cuddle, and demand nothing in return. I had to have the parrot totally vetted and wings clipped prior to the visiting. It made a world of difference in my spouses attitude and for him, made the endless weeks in rehabilitation more acceptable. It turned out when he did come home, the Grey was the only parrot not afraid of all of the equipment necessary for my spouse to move around our home. And I think the staff at the rehabilitation hospital also received an education on what kinds of bonds humans make with parrots, and what is required to live with a parrot.

  2. Thomas Ripa June 6, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    I am having trying to make people understand that if it wasn’t for my pet parrots after she past away last the age of ninety eight who i took care of till the end.
    I promised her i would never put her in a nursing home no matter what it took
    I don’t know what happened. We went on a four day birthday vacation came home on the Friday after her birthday. Went to see her primary care DR.put in the hospital the same day. She was there for about a week she she never came out alive. I was told she had a blood clot on the brain stem that must have burst
    Now i live in a five bedroom house with our pet parrots with no intention of moving. Now my parrots are my life they help keep depression and stress level down.I’d like to know who to contact
    To get acirtifcate so i can bring my parrot with me like people who bring their service dogs with them
    The health department make’s a big thing about a bird but nothing is said about a service dog being where their is food
    It’s unsanitary to have a bird around food but not unsanitary to have a service dog around food
    Sounds like double standard to me


  3. Thomas Ripa June 6, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    How do i go about getting a certificate for a therapy parrot which helps with my stress relief and depression,

  4. Maria Langly August 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    I have the same question as Thomas.

    How and where can I get my parrot certified as a therapy parrot?

  5. Cheryl August 10, 2015 at 5:35 am #

    Hi Thomas and Maria – I took a look online and found a few organizations that certify animals as therapy animals. If you contact them, I am certain they’d be able to help, or at least point you in the right direction:

    Canadian Registry of Therapy Animals and Service Animals:

    National Service Animal Registry:

    Info and links – article on registering a dog (might have info on other animals in links):

    How to certify a cat – again, might have information for other animals:

    Info on “Emotional Support Animals”, including birds:

    Register a Service Animal:

    Traveling with Emotional Support Animals, Service Animals and Therapy Animals:

    • Cheryl August 10, 2015 at 5:38 am #

      More on Emotional Support Animals (including birds): Federal law does not currently place restrictions on the species of animal that can serve as an ESA.

      An emotional support animal (ESA) is a dog that belongs to a person who is emotionally or psychologically (psychiatrically) disabled. Some people refer to them as a “Comfort Animal”, but that term isn’t recognized in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The person’s doctor (a licensed mental health professional or LMHP) has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the person’s mental health and that they are considered disabled as a result. The LMHP must also write a letter of prescription stating the dog is necessary for the normal day to functioning of the disabled person. The letter must be very specifically written to be acceptable to property managers and airlines. Under current ADA and Fair Housing laws, an ESA is ONLY protected as follows:

      An ESA may fly in the cabin of a commercial or private airline with their disabled handler, and the handler does not have to pay a pet or other fee. A very specific prescription letter from a licensed mental health profession is ALWAYS required by airlines, as well as advance notice in most cases that the passenger will be flying with an ESA.

      Landlords and property managers must make reasonable accommodations for tenants or prospective tenants with ESAs, even if the apartment, house, college dorm, or other residence does not allow pets. Reasonable fees may be asked of the client, similar to a pet fee. Besides requiring a letter of prescription. Property managers/landlords may require that the (prospective) tenant’s mental health professional complete and sign a Third Party Verification form.

  6. Cheryl January 29, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    Excellent article in the New York Times about Serenity Park.

    “What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD? An unexpected bond between damaged birds and traumatized veterans could reveal surprising insights into animal intelligence.”

  7. Adeel Rafiq January 29, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    its really amzing post. i love animals . and i think we behave same like humain with animals . becuase thy have breath like us. thy r soo cute and beautiful. i like your post.

  8. cheryl lamberton December 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    need info to get certification for my comfort pet.I am my wartime veteran,,sufferingfromPTSD………after bringing a 24yearold,,neglected muluccan cockatoo into my home..after workingwiththisbirdfor4years…bonding with her I noticed that when I am experiencing my bouts of depression how much comfort she is to me ….she loves for me to take her on outings like to home depot ,starbucks, the petstore ,some restraunts. that have open air dining ..she will club up on top of her outingcarrierwantingme to take her out..which gets me out of house..otherwise i would stay in the house for days

  9. Robert February 19, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi..I had to give up my malocken cockatoo I live in South Jersey and was told Peaches was adopted by a woman that would be taking her to new york and possible used for therapy in nursing homesI gave the bird store where she was adopted a letter to give to the new owner asking just to text or call me just to let me no how she is but have heard nothing, I am still so sad and it would help to know how she is doing can anyone help. thanks

  10. Samantha T. March 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    Who knew birds could be considered assisted animals too? I recently learned that they can also be considered Emotional Support Animals! Emotional Pet Support wrote an article about birds being ESAs here in case anyone wants to read:


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