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How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help People in Recovery?

How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help People in Recovery?

Imagine this: You’ve had a long day and have just walked into your house. Then you hear the sound that greets you every day. It is the sound of your furry friend running across the house, eager and excited, upon your arrival. Nothing compares to when your pet greets you, and all stress from the day evaporates. Because pets positively affect many people’s mental health, animal-assisted therapy can have many benefits in treatment and recovery.

How Will Animal-Assisted Therapy Help Me?

Have you ever been in a room full of puppies or stroked a sleepy, purring kitty? If you answered yes to either one, then you can begin to understand how animal-assisted therapy can help. Animals offer unconditional acceptance and love that is hard to find anywhere else. With pets, you enter a judgment-free zone that is likely to ignite some interaction on the part of most individuals. The healing power of animals has been used for centuries to provide comfort amid distress.

What Are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Recovery?

Animal-assisted therapy refers to several therapeutic and recreational activities that use the healing power of animals. This is not an independent modality but is helpful alongside other evidence-based treatment practices.

Having an animal can be a game changer in recovery. Animals can bring a sense of positivity to anyone, especially those in recovery. During treatment, an animal can enhance your confidence, encourage self-soothing, and provide comfort in times of distress. 

All too often, you may feel embarrassed or shame about past experiences. Additionally, recovery is hard work that can leave you feeling raw and tired. However, the stress relief and mood boost that comes with being around an animal can help you avoid or decrease negative feelings toward the process.

Types of Animal-Assisted Therapy

There are two primary ways that animals can engage in therapeutic work:

Pet Therapy

Pet therapy uses pets who have undergone rigorous training to provide comfort in a specific program. The pet must be sociable, friendly, and have good manners. These animals are great in schools, nursing homes, or hospitals to comfort people.

The joy that you can experience through pet therapy has a physical benefit to the human body. It relieves emotional stress, reduces cortisol levels, and increases dopamine and serotonin. This way, you can experience healing hormones that enhance treatment and recovery.

Animal-assisted therapy 

This animal therapy has you engage in specific therapeutic activities with different animals. Animal-assisted therapy can use any animal, although the two most common are horses and dogs. Through guided interaction, you can learn to self-regulate your emotions and provide care for the pet.

How Can a Pet Support Me in My Recovery Journey?

Adapting to a new lifestyle is essential for your recovery. At times, though, it can seem overwhelming. Having an animal provides a space of familiarity and will give you a sense of purpose while decreasing the risk of relapse. 

Listed below are ways that animal-assisted recovery can help recovery:

Increases Exercise

It is essential to stay active in your recovery. What better way to keep active than with a furry friend? Playing or walking with your pet can create a bonding experience and decrease health problems. Exercising daily decreases overall stress and provides a space for relaxation.

Helps You Meet New People

Many people in recovery struggle to meet new people. A pet can give you the confidence to embrace unfamiliar territory. It is not uncommon for dog owners to stop and chat while on walks or at a dog park. Having a pet could be the bridge that helps you meet new people.

Teaching Responsibility

Pets are living, breathing creatures that provide unconditional in exchange for adequate care. Having the responsibility to care for something other than yourself is a great way to help you think about something other than your struggles. You are now responsible for your pet’s well-being. Though this can be a lot to take on, it will be worth it when you can bond with your furry companion.

Adding Structure and Routine to Your Day

Many pets need some structure. This could include specific feeding times, walks, and regular grooming. Structure and routine are also great for your recovery. Your pet can keep you accountable for maintaining your recovery-supportive habits.

Building Self-Worth and Confidence

Caring for a pet increases your self-worth and confidence. Pets give little gestures of love when you care for them well or when you need a little pick-me-up. This could increase your confidence in recovery.

What If I Do Not Have a Pet?

Maybe you are in a space where you are interested in animal-assisted therapy but just not ready to make that commitment. Perhaps you want to reap the benefits of interacting with animals but don’t have a good environment to live with one. In this case, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or offering to pet-sit for your friends.

Animals help foster a sense of healing within recovery and can decrease stress, improve mood, and increase connections within your life. There are many benefits to having a pet to help you through the recovery journey. Pets bring a sense of positivity to life. Any pet owner can tell stories of their pet and smile when doing so. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we use emotional support animals to accompany your recovery journey. We understand this is a difficult journey for you and want to make it as enjoyable as possible. This is why we have incorporated support animals into our program to decrease anxiety and loneliness. Give us a call today at (866) 229-9923 to learn more.