Anyone who has spent time with a cat, dog, horse, or other animal has noticed that it makes them feel less stressed and happier. The beneficial effect that animals have on both our physical and mental health has been well known for awhile, and now this healing effect is being further harnessed by specially trained therapy animals.
These animals can bring the benefits of owning a pet to anyone who needs a little extra push when it comes to improving their health. Some of the benefits that spending time with animals can bring include:
-Reducing symptoms of depression
-Providing relief for stress
-Lowering high blood pressure
-Decreasing high heart rates
-Strengthening the immune system
-Encouraging an overall feeling of self worth and well being.
Many types of medical treatment centers, including mental health centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabs, utilize therapy animals. Therapy animals have an especially profound impact on patients in some form of addiction treatment and can boost the effectiveness of their treatment.
This is due to the fact that many recovering addicts are also dealing with the long term effects of trauma, abuse, or mental disorders. Working with animals helps foster a strong sense of hope, fulfillment, and self worth. Anyone who is looking to enter treatment for an addiction should consider the value of working with a therapy animal.
What happens during an animal therapy session.
Therapy sessions usually take place in a group setting where patients can also interact with other members of the group in addition to the animal. You will have the opportunity to establish a relationship with the animal, groom or give other care to them if possible, communicate with them through body language, or even take the animal out on rides if applicable.
These regular sessions are very helpful for those who have abused drugs or alcohol in order to mask deep psychological pain or trauma. By spending time with animals, a new sense of trust and openness can be built up again. Caring and nurturing another being also builds self esteem and teaches patients to trust themselves as well. The environment where the sessions take place are safe and non judgemental, so patients can focus on the healing process and the animals themselves.
Not all addiction treatment centers offer this type of therapy, so be sure to inquire about the treatment methods that are available. Animal therapy has proven to be very effective when combined with other forms of therapy, counseling, and medication.
It's also a good idea to go into therapy with specific goals in mind. Some things that can be accomplished with the aid of a therapy animal include:
-Building a positive relationship with another being.
-Feeling secure and trusted in an animal's presence.
-Increasing confidence and learning new things.
-Feeling responsibility by caring for an animal.
-Learning how to better handle negative emotions.
-Practicing new communication skills in a safe environment.
The idea is that working with animals will build the skills that are needed to interact with human beings. Animals also have their own needs, personalities, and moods that need to be taken into consideration.
They also respond positively to affection, or negatively to abuse or mishandling. Interacting with a therapy animal can teach a person how to build better relationships with the people in their own lives. These skills will become valuable once a patient leaves the rehab center for the outside world.
Photo Credit: BigStock Photo