When entering addiction treatment, many might be surprised to see animal-assisted therapy as part of their treatment plan. The fact is that animal-assisted therapy is becoming more common in all sectors of mental health care. This is because animals can and do provide a lot of comfort to people. There is a reason why an estimated 68% of U.S. households have a pet. It’s common knowledge that animals can help decrease stress and improve mental health. However, not many people know the role animal-assisted therapy can play in treating addiction.
At Painted Desert Recovery, animal-assisted therapy is an important part of addiction treatment. It doesn’t just help someone overcome their addiction; it can also help them stay in recovery. By utilizing the healing power of animals, clients don’t just improve their mental health; they also improve as people.
The Difference Between Therapy and Service Animals
There is a distinct difference between animals used in animal-assisted therapy and animals used for service. Understanding this difference is important, as it prevents someone from expecting too much from a particular animal.
Service animals are dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) that provide a specific service that aids a person. They are considered essential medical equipment and cannot be barred from housing and public places. Service animals perform tasks such as leading the blind, alerting their person to drops in blood sugar, providing deep pressure therapy, and helping a person walk. They are highly trained to perform these tasks, which allows people with medical and psychological difficulties to lead normal lives. Service animals are not used as part of animal-assisted therapy.
However, therapy animals are used in animal-assisted therapy. A therapy animal can be any animal, as long as they have a calm and gentle temperament. Again, dogs are very common in animal-assisted therapy as they are easily trained and bond well with humans. Cats, birds, horses, and even snakes have been used as part of animal-assisted therapy. Therapy animals do not have the same legal protections as service animals and are usually not allowed in public spaces, unless in specific circumstances. For example, animals are usually not allowed in hospitals unless they’re service animals or part of an animal-assisted therapy program.
What Happens in Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy is rather straightforward in terms of how it is conducted. A handler will bring animals to a specific area where clients can interact with them or directly to a client. What exactly happens in the animal-assisted therapy session is dependent on the animals involved. For smaller animals, clients usually sit and pet them. More mobile animals like dogs and cats offer opportunities to play, as well as grooming and petting them. For large animals like horses, clients have the opportunity to ride them as well as engage in equestrian care.
Of course, if someone has an allergy to a specific animal, they will not be forced to participate in animal-assisted therapy. It’s a strictly voluntary therapy that does not work unless the person wants to participate. Those who are afraid of the animal in question are welcome to watch until they feel more comfortable participating in animal-assisted therapy.
All animals used in animal-assisted therapy have to pass strict guidelines to make sure they are safe for people to be around. This includes temperament tests to make sure the animal is gentle and calm. Animal-assisted therapy is safe, though care must be taken to avoid accidents. How to do so will be explained in depth before the session, as well as general safety tips.
Why Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help With Addiction Treatment?
Animals are more than able to help people recover from addiction. They mostly do this by providing comfort, which reduces physical and emotional pain. Animals do not judge people and don’t care that someone is struggling with addiction. All they see is a person in need of love and support, and they will certainly provide those.
Animals in animal-assisted therapy are also helpful in encouraging people to improve their movement and motor skills. Exercise is a part of a healthy life, and it becomes easier once someone gets used to chasing around a playful dog or performing chores to care for horses. Animal-assisted therapy is also fun, which can give someone some respite from the more difficult parts of addiction treatment.
Animals also help people develop healthy social and behavioral skills. These help people choose their company wisely and resist peer pressure, all of which will reduce the risk of a relapse. It also gives people hope and motivation needed to succeed in addiction treatment. Many times, people will fall in love with animals in animal-assisted therapy. They understand that they cannot have an animal of their own as long as they are trapped in their addiction. This motivates them to work hard to overcome their addiction and achieve recovery so they can properly care for a pet of their own.
Animal-assisted therapy has helped many people achieve recovery. So don’t wait for you and your loved ones to get help, contact Painted Desert Recovery today.
Animals, especially domestic ones, have historically played a significant role in shaping us as human beings. They have provided companionship, helped us work, and kept us safe. They can also provide healing, especially to those struggling with addiction. Here at Painted Desert Recovery in New Harmony, Utah, we know the importance of animal-assisted therapy when it comes to addiction treatment. It’s especially important for women, who can find safety and understanding in the healing power of animal-assisted therapy. Animals don’t just provide companionship; they can give us the strength to overcome our struggles. To learn more about how animals can help you or a loved one recover from addiction, call us today at (844) 540-0353.