Animals offer us many benefits, from companionship to someone to talk to when we have no one else. They’ve even achieved status as therapy animals for people suffering from mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. Maybe the most important thing animals offer is unconditional love. We could all use a healthy dose of unconditional love, but for those suffering from substance abuse, a pet or animal therapy may be the very thing that can help you in recovery and prevent a relapse.
HOW HAS ANIMAL THERAPY BEEN USED?
Staff members in long-term nursing facilities have long recognized the benefits of animal visits for their residents. The joy people get from interacting with an animal when they are sick or elderly is well-documented and well-known. If you have any doubts, just watch the faces of residents light up when someone brings their pet for a visit to the nursing home facility. Some facilities even have a specially designated cat or dog that lives within its walls and can be available 24 hours a day. They often have birds for the enjoyment of their residents, as well.
In addition to the nurturing aspect and unconditional love of a therapeutic animal, they encourage people to socialize and interact with others. How many times have you seen someone walking their dog and had to stop and comment on how cute they are?
WHAT IS PET THERAPY?
Bringing pets to a nursing facility can have it’s own issues when there are people that may have allergies or concern for diseases. However, many people have taken the same principle that has helped so many elderly patients and adapted it for their home. We now have therapy cats and dogs that help everyday people with mental issues such as anxiety, depression, or fatigue. They can help people fight loneliness and give you something to care for and love.
If you get proper documentation that you are in need of a service animal, apartments or hotels can’t discriminate in giving you housing and should accept your pet as a therapeutic animal. You can usually get some kind of letter or paperwork from your doctor designating your pet as a therapy animal.
Typically, when people think of pet therapy, they think of cats and dogs. However, pet therapy can include more unconventional hats such as fish, birds, guinea pigs, horses, and other farm animals. While your doctor may be reluctant to sign off on a pet pig as your therapy animal, they can be incorporated into therapy and stress relief.
ARE THERE MORE FORMAL THERAPIES AVAILABLE?
Formal pet therapy can be referred to as animal-assisted therapy or AAT. In addition to the companionship that they can offer and emotional support on a personal basis, in AAT, you work with an animal therapist to develop a specific set of goals and exercises to do with either your pet or a therapy animal.
Even if you don’t engage in a formal animal therapy program, who can resist holding a purring cat or have their face licked repeatedly by a dog? The responsibility of owning and caring for a pet can help you focus during recovery and studies have shown the physiological benefits of pet ownership, such as reduced anxiety and lower blood pressure.
WHAT IS EQUINE THERAPY?
One of the more popular programs to assist in physical, mental, and substance abuse cases is equine therapy. Equine therapy can involve riding horses, which is an especially therapeutic activity for those with physical limitations but it also benefits those with mental health issues or a history of substance abuse. Grooming horses and the physical work of tending them and cleaning their stalls gives those with addiction or mental issues an activity that can calm them down and show them the joy in taking care of another living creature.
Everlast Recovery Center is a rehabilitation center that offers equine therapy. This supplements our many other forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing. Residents in our recovery programs may not have the ability to keep or stable a horse in the outside world, but they can discover the joy of taking care of and riding these gentle animals while in recovery.
That’s what any therapeutic program is about–rediscovering joy without using any substances to artificially create happiness by numbing a person’s pain. Assisted-animal therapy or having a personal pet who provides therapeutic benefits is just one of many therapies that help us find joy in recovery and life beyond drugs.
Animal-assisted therapy provides a mode of therapy designed to help people find joy in life that doesn’t depend on chemicals or substance abuse. Long term care facilities have been employing pet visits to encourage joy and compassion in their residents and a nostalgia for pets lost. Some facilities have even adopted pets and have a house cat or dog. Those struggling with substance abuse problems can also benefit from the positive experience of caring for an animal and the unconditional love they can give. Many people of all ages have adopted pets and had them certified as therapy animals to help treat mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. The bottom line is that animals and the unconditional love they bring us can make us happier and can help with recovery and remaining sober. Here at Everlast Recovery Center in Riverside, California, we support your recovery and offer equine therapy along with traditional counseling as well as yoga and art therapy. To learn more, call us at 866-DETOX-25