Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is becoming increasingly popular among addiction recovery
programs as an effective intervention for those struggling with substance abuse. AAT has
been found to have numerous benefits in aiding individuals on their road to sobriety, providing
much-needed emotional support and non-judgmental companionship along the path to
For those living in a sober house, AAT can provide a unique form of support that helps
individuals break through barriers they may face while on their journey and helps alleviate
loneliness and build self-confidence.
This blog post will discuss how engaging in animal-assisted therapy can help improve mental
illness, foster connection, acceptance, and joy during substance abuse treatment, and aid
long-term healing beyond the walls of recovery centers.
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What is Pet Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy, commonly referred to as pet therapy, is a form of medicine that
incorporates trained animals into the healing process.
It has become a popular choice for those struggling with physical and mental health issues, as
the presence of animals like dogs and guinea pigs can have many positive effects on human
health. For example, animal petting can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and
produce endorphins that promote well-being.
Additionally, interacting with animals can encourage people to engage in activities they might
not ordinarily do when left to their own devices and offer comfort and psychological
advantages in times of hardship. All this makes pet therapy an invaluable tool in helping
people move towards better emotional regulation while also boosting morale.
How Does Pet Therapy Work?
The objectives of animal therapy might vary, and how well they are achieved will depend on
them. The type of therapy and its goal may vary depending on the disease and the level of
assistance required. Several instances include:
- Bringing relief and lowering the intensity of the pain
- Enhancing your motor or movement skills
- Building up behavioral or social abilities
- Enhancing motivation for pursuits like exercise or social interaction
Pet dog handlers, frequent owners, bring their charges to each session as part of the regular
practice for animal therapy. To assist the individual in achieving their therapy objectives, the
handler will work under the direction of a doctor.
Many organizations equip handlers with training and links to healthcare professionals. Multiple
handlers are unpaid volunteers.
The animal and the handler must complete numerous certification processes with these
groups and organizations before receiving authorization for usage in therapy.
The handler often needs to pass a training session on communicating with individuals and
providing the various therapies they might offer.
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Additionally, the animal must pass inspections and complete numerous therapy dog
certification processes. These will entail verifying the animal’s immunization history and
physical examinations to ensure it’s usually healthy and disease-free. They must undergo
temperament testing to ensure that they act appropriately around the handler and other
The two will also go through obedience training. The person has access to the most incredible
therapy sessions possible because of this stringent testing and certification process, which
also guarantees the professionalism and safety of everyone involved.
It’s critical to remember that service dogs and therapy dogs are not the same and do not have
the same legal protections. For instance, a therapy dog cannot enter a place of commerce
with its handler.
The Advantages of Pet Therapy
Pet therapy strengthens the human-animal link that already exists. Many physical and mental
ailments can be helped by interacting with a lovable pet.
It can lower blood pressure and enhance cardiovascular health in general. It may also cause
the release of endorphins, which have a relaxing effect. This may lessen tension, ease pain,
and enhance your psychological well-being.
There are numerous ways to employ pet therapy. Therapy must have clearly defined goals,
and your development will be tracked and recorded at scheduled sessions
A pet therapy program may have the following goals:
- Enhancing joint mobility and motor abilities
- Enhancing either solo or aided movement
- Enhancing verbal communication, strengthening social skills, and boosting self-esteem
- Improving interactions with people, encouraging participation in activities, and inspiring exercise
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Who Might Benefit From Animal Assisted Therapy
People with various mental and physical health conditions may benefit from animal therapy.
- Lowering stress and anxiety
- Lowering pain perceptions
- Reducing anxiety and/or fear
- Developing social support sentiments
- Fostering inspiration, stimulus, and concentration
- Heart failure
- Pain from cancer treatment
- Postoperative recovery
- Recovery after a major stroke or another condition that causes a person to lose motor skills
Working with an animal in these circumstances may motivate the patient to continue therapy,
elevate mood, and minimize pain symptoms. They might benefit from it if they move correctly
and regularly exercise to address physical problems.
In addition, some long-term care facilities may provide pet therapy programs to lift residents’
spirits and promote their general well-being.
Therapy Dogs And Service Dogs
Service dogs, which are distinct from therapy dogs, may also be something you’ve heard of.
Service dogs are taught to carry out particular duties on their owner’s behalf. They undergo
demanding; expensive, task-focused training designed expressly to assist their owners in
coping with disability.
The Americans With Disabilities Act has regulations letting these dogs go out publicly with
“Comfort dogs” are another name for therapy dogs. They assist someone’s mental health by
attending to and comforting them. Their gentle demeanors and unconditional love may
provide a therapeutic benefit to persons who suffer significant health difficulties.
But a therapy dog can be enjoyed by anybody, unlike assistance dogs.
How Can Therapy Dogs Boost Your Health?
Some psychiatric diseases and mental health issues have been shown to benefit from therapy
Interaction with therapy dogs, other companion animals, and other animal-assisted activities
are beneficial for patients with various diagnoses, including depression, bipolar disorder,
autism, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer’s disease.
Therapy dogs can also assist with physical health issues, occasionally leading to emotional
difficulties. Research suggests people who engage in animal-assisted therapy while
recovering from painful surgery or a catastrophic accident may experience less pain.
Studies have indicated that these connections can raise the hormone oxytocin, which
improves mood and lowers cortisol, which increases stress.
Disadvantages of Dog Assisted Therapy
While specific health concerns may benefit from animal therapy, not everyone will help, and
pet therapy may have a few disadvantages.
The animals frequently used in therapy may cause allergic reactions in certain persons.
For instance, many people have allergies to the dander produced when a dog sheds. Animal
therapy with a dog might be detrimental to these people far more than beneficial.
Others can merely feel uneasy with or terrified of the animals. They might decide against this
form of therapy since it would make them feel more stressed.
In such circumstances, a person could immediately develop a strong bond with the animal.
This emotion could breed possessiveness or make someone less satisfied with their therapy.
Furthermore, therapy animals that go to hospitals and other long-term facilities could carry
specific viruses or diseases. Thorough testing is crucial for any animal because there may be
a potential that it could transmit these infections to other individuals.
Although pet therapy has been around for many years, they still a relatively new concept to
The benefits of pet therapy are vast and can help people in numerous ways. Discuss it with
your doctor or therapist if you are considering adding pet therapy to your treatment plan.
Animal-assisted therapy can provide significant relief for many people, but some risks should
be considered before starting any treatment.