There is nothing purer in this world than the bond between animals and people. The internet and media are constantly flooded with adorable stories and videos of dogs caring for humans, and humans going to great lengths to save animals. It is a beautiful relationship that has been forged since we first learned to walk upright.
Despite our emotional struggles, how poor we feel about our work performance, our fights between family members and loved ones, animals love us unconditionally. That is why pet therapy in treatment can be so vital to healthy recovery.
How Does Pet Therapy Work?
In drug and alcohol treatment centers, pet therapy can encompass a wide variety of different fields. For many substance abuse facilities, equine, feline, and canine therapy are the most common.
These three species have proven to be extremely empathetic, compassionate, and gentle when working in the rehabilitation field. The main goal of pet therapy in substance abuse treatment is that specially trained and certified animals are used for people as a therapeutic tool in processing and recovering from either addiction, eating disorders, mental disorders, learning disabilities, and more
- Feline Therapy: While we all know that cats like to do their own things, they have been proven to be extremely effective therapeutic animals. They have a calm demeanor and relaxed attitude that can almost “rub off” onto patients
- Some treatment facilities work with animal shelters as a volunteer program – this helps individuals feel connected to the animals, as feelings of abandonment, isolation, and loneliness are common among people with substance abuse and mental disorders.
- Cats are great animals to utilize in one on one therapeutic environments, such as in a therapist office during a session.
- It has been proven to be very calming to hold and pet cats while they purr, as this promotes calmness and presence that people with anxiety or panic disorders can benefit from.
- Equine Therapy: this form of pet therapy usually takes place at a registered equestrian center and centers around grooming, feeding, haltering, and leading the horses. Equine Therapy will always be supervised by both a mental health professional and an equine therapist.
- The interactions that take place between client and animal allow both the therapist and the individuals to analyze their behaviors, emotions, and thought processes around their interactions.
- The ultimate goal of this form of pet therapy is to provide the client with emotional awareness, empathy, assertiveness, impulse control, independence, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal relationships.
- Canine Therapy – the form of pet therapy that uses trained and certified dogs to assist in therapeutic processes. Most people feel very comfortable around dogs, but for those who don’t this offers a unique experience to gain confidence in a very calm and well-behaved therapy dog.
- Studies show that canine-assisted therapy decreases depression rates, reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and slow pulse, increases recovery rates from illness and surgery, and increases confidence.
- Apart from being beneficial inside the therapeutic environment, clients who suffer from chronic mental disorders can learn the value of having a therapy dog, which can greatly assist them later in life.
- It is common for many therapists to get their own personal pet therapy certified. This ensures trust between the therapist and the animal and promotes relaxation and comfort in the therapeutic environment.
Benefits of Pet Therapy in Sobriety
Early recovery can be a real roller coaster sometimes. With the process of withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability are extremely common. Not to mention the intensive emotional and psychological work that takes place in substance abuse treatment centers. Pet therapy offers a compassionate and peaceful environment for some of this work to take place.
It is no secret that animals can be trained to do wonderful and life-saving tasks. Most people have seen videos of support animals who help their owners take medications, after seizures, or with autistic outbursts. Not to mention, the value that pet therapy brings for people who struggle with depression and anxiety. It is no surprise that many people in recovery use pet therapy!
Animals don’t hold judgment, they hold no resentments, and they love us despite our flaws. They are compassionate and gentle models that we can learn a lot from.
Pet therapy is so beneficial in the treatment and therapeutic setting because they allow many people, especially those who were raised with animals, to feel human again. It is common for people in treatment to begin to feel like they are “trapped” and having an animal around reminds them of the comforts of home.
Pet therapy often helps break down some barriers that many people have built up, which allows them to feel trust and emotion more fully with their therapist. It is common for newly recovering addicts and people with mental disorders to have a difficult time expressing emotions. Pet therapy often helps bring emotions to the surface, through snuggling, petting, and simply the compassion that animals have for humans.
The Link Between Animal Behaviors and Social Cues
It is extremely common for people who are coming into substance abuse rehabilitation centers to have forgotten or lost many of the social guidelines to forming healthy relationships. This abandonment of social cues can be relearned through pet therapy.
Animals are extremely keen on human social cues and are often expressive in their own emotional “cues”. For example, when horses put their ears back when they are distressed, or when cats hiss, or when dogs growl. Being aware and understanding of an animals social cues can help people to become more understanding of social cues in their own relationships and day to day interactions.
Pet therapy has been proven to benefit people who are recovering from addiction, mental disorders, behavioral issues, and even medical disorders. Through compassion and understanding, animals and humans can mirror each other, and can promote acceptance, patience, and confidence.
Getting Sober With Restore
At the end of the day, some of us require a bit of additional help before comfortably moving into any type of sober residence. Addiction will show up at your door with both barrels blazing and it’s up to us as the alcoholics we are to know how to handle it appropriately. Nobody wants to be victim to this disease. If you or your loved one is ready to leave substance dependency behind and start a new way of life, please call 1-800-982-5530 or visit www.restoredtx.wpengine.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting to explore your options with a drug detox center.