Any animal lover can tell you right away that having a pet around is a pleasure and a tremendous boost to your feelings of wellbeing and happiness. For this reason, scientists started researching the effect that pets have on humans, and the field of animal-assisted therapy was born.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Therapet, a non-profit organization that promotes animal-assisted therapy, describes it this way: “Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the utilization of animals as a therapeutic modality to facilitate healing and rehabilitation of patients with acute or chronic diseases.”
In animal-assisted therapy, the interaction between pets and recovering addicts is used to support other substance abuse treatment measures like medication intervention and cognitive and behavioral therapies.
How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Work?
Exposure to and interaction with pets has a number of significant health benefits. Prevention lists benefits such as:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced depression
- Stress relief
- Decreased heart rate
- Immune system boost
- Enhanced self-worth
In many cases, a recovering addict may be dealing with the effects of trauma, emotional disturbances, or mental illnesses that have contributed to the substance abuse problems. Depending on the severity of the addiction and associated trauma, some addicts may have trouble interacting appropriately with other people.
Animal-assisted therapies can do much to help addicts re-connect with another living being. Therapy dogs are trained to respond with positive reinforcement to addicts who interact with them. Forming a connection with a therapy animal is a good first step on the way to reconnecting with other people.
Meanwhile, by caring for a pet, addicts can improve their feelings of self-respect and show themselves and others that they are capable of handling responsibility.
From a purely chemical perspective, animal assisted drug therapy makes sense. According to DrugRehab.US, being around and touching animals has also been shown to raise levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which makes people feel happier and more loving.
Goals of Animal-Assisted Therapy
While no one is claiming that pet therapy is the only thing an addict needs to make a recovery, it can be very effective when combined with other therapies. The goals of animal-assisted therapy are simple. Addicts in animal-assisted therapy can:
- Learn how to interact with another living being
- Learn to build trust and a sense of security
- Learn new skills that lead to increased self-confidence
- Receive emotional support in a non-judgmental environment
- Learn to think about responsibility toward others, starting with the therapy animal
Can You Take Your Own Pet to Rehab?
In most cases, it is not possible for you to take your own pet to drug or alcohol rehab with you. While there are some facilities that allow it, for the most part, it is not allowed. However, there are a growing number of facilities that are embracing animal-assisted therapy with trained therapy animals. In these facilities, therapy animals like dogs are brought into the facility for both group and individual therapy sessions.
Finding the Right Therapy Setting
Whether your particular rehab program allows animal-assisted therapy or not, a program that uses integrated therapies is a good idea. Addiction is a difficult enemy to battle, and you will want to have all tools available at your disposal to fight your war with addiction and win.
We’re Here to Help
Harris House offers a variety of treatment options and therapies to meet your individual needs. Please contact us today to talk about how we can help you win your fight.