(248) 760-2571

32910 W 13 Mile Rd., Suite D-402
Farmington Hills, MI

Clinical Psychologist

Real problems, real solutions.

My Dog, Bella

On November 16, 2006, the following article written by Linda Ann Chomin was printed in the Observer Eccentric Newspaper regarding my dog, Bella, a Labrador Retriever and the wonderful role she has played as a co-therapist in my office. Enjoy!

– Dr. Ron Rice & Bella

Compassionate Counseling

Image: Bella, Dr. Ron Rice, Clinical Psychologist, Michigan, PHD Psychologist partners with furry co-therapist.

Dr. Ron Rice fondly strokes Bella, the furry co-therapist in his practice. The psychologist jokes that some day their roles could reverse if clients ever begin to value the Labrador Retriever’s compassion over his gentle but confrontational style of counseling.

Bella’s big cold nose nudges a response from everyone entering Dr. Rice’s office in Farmington Hills. The yellow lab immediately establishes a comfort zone for those seeking help during a difficult time in their lives. Before long, clients’ apprehension completely subsides as they find psychological safety in Bella’s big golden eyes.

“When people go see a therapist, they imagine you’re going to look like Sigmund Freud and there’s going to be a couch,” said Dr. Rice, a West Bloomfield resident. I dress in a pair of slacks and sports shirt. Bella goes and greets them.”

Client, psychologist and co-therapist then settle down to their respective chairs. Bella seems to know when comforting is needed and moves about the room. Her mature nature is surprising for a dog so young. In some circles Bella is still considered a puppy — even though she turned one year old on November 3, 2006.

Dr. Ron Rice has been a dog lover all his life. Twenty-five years ago, he spent over $5000 curing his first co-therapist, Deogi, of cancer. Deogi, a Golden Retriever, developed Cushing’s disease at age eight. The costly treatment enabled her to live to 14 years of age. Dr. Rice respected Deogi’s contributions to client care so much, he continued to use Golden Retrievers in his practice to break the ice and provide comfort. Keesa and Amber preceded Bella, his first yellow lab.

“There’s something really magical about Bella. She’s so sensitive,” said Dr. Rice. “I had a client who was severely depressed and we talked for five weeks, but he was very controlled. Then during one session he burst into tears. Bella left her chair and went and rested her head in his lap. He stroked her fur and he stopped crying. She continued to leave her head on his lap. Without a word she was saying, “It will be okay. I’m here.”

“One young fellow was very shy. It was difficult to get him to talk. Bella would sit next to him. He started petting her and then talking to her. Then he began talking to me. She was an intermediary.”

Carol was a 30 year-old woman going through emotional stress and relationship problems when she sought counseling from Dr. Rice. Bella was not present for her first four visits as Dr. Rice had not yet purchased the four month old dog.

“From day one it was good having someone outside my family who could relate to me”, said Carol. “When he brought in his dog she was very soothing. When I was tearful, she knew to come up to me and with those eyes and say ‘pet me’. I’ve had a Rottweiler for eight years, so I related. When he did get the dog, I was always looking forward to going in to see Bella. She’s always been calm. Her being so calm makes me feel at ease.”

Only twice in Dr. Rice’s 25 years of using his dogs in therapy has a client objected to their presence. One was afraid of dogs, the other suffered from allergies. Dr. Rice insisted on Bella staying in the room, but offered clients the names of three other therapists because he views his dog as a “respected co-therapist.” The client who was allergic chose to leave; the other stayed and overcame her fear of dogs. Dr. Rice has been working with clients with anxiety and panic disorders, depression, and marital problems since obtaining his Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Rice is active with the Oakland County Friend of the Court. As a “parenting” time coordinator, he sees divorced couples who are having difficulty with a variety of problems, including communication, problem solving, visitation, etc.

Dr. Rice’s three children — Carrie, 34, Erik, 32, and Julie, 29 — grew up to be animal lovers like their father.

“Often married couples come to the office for counseling and in response to the question, ‘What are the problems?’, each points to their spouse. This often results in yelling and screaming at one another. When this occurs, Bella senses their difficulty and goes from one to the other, as if to say, ‘calm down’. Couples see this as soothing and they begin to talk to each other in a more mature and constructive manner. There is no question that Bella, once again, has a magical and sensitive way of connecting to people.”

Dr. Rice says he’s learned a lot from watching his dogs. They have enriched his practice and helped him to be a better therapist. The four-footed co-therapists have provided comfort to him as well during difficult times.

“The best night of the week is Sunday because I know I’m going to see my patients along with my co-therapist, Bella, the next day.”

In terms of therapeutic philosophy, Dr. Rice believes that human beings engage in only one activity: making choices. Specifically, Dr. Rice believes that life is the culmination of your choices. He indicated that he works a lot with that concept in therapy.

“I’m very goal-oriented. I help people confront their problems.”

He believes that how we think about any stress in our lives is important. If individuals develop more constructive ways of thinking about a problem, they are more likely to be successful in their problem solving. There is no question that Bella is an active and valuable asset in the therapy process.

Please learn more about Dr. Rice at What They Say About... and Meet Dr. Ron Rice.

To start your journey, contact Dr. Ron Rice today at (248) 760-2571 to set up an appointment. Be proactive, take action, and start feeling good about yourself today.