What is Animal Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy, or AAT, is connected to health benefits such as pain reduction, anxiety, and depression. Individuals who find healing and happiness with therapeutic animals include people suffering from substance use disorders, veterans with PTSD, and even chemotherapy patients.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service dogs as animals trained to do or perform certain tasks for an individual with a disability such as the loss of a limb, deafness, blindness, diabetes, and epilepsy.
However, service animals are not limited to helping those with physical disabilities. Emotional and mental illness is something that affects millions of people every day. Animals that assist with emotional and psychological challenges are known as emotional support animals and they are beneficial to those suffering from addiction and PTSD or other mental health issues.
Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Dog ownership and animal therapy have numerous benefits in both the psychological and physiological realm. Animals help people in drug and alcohol addiction recovery find substitute methods for stimulating the brain.
Animal-assisted therapy, service dogs, and emotional support animals help those who are recovering from addiction rewire their addicted brain in a healthy way. On top of that, therapeutic or pet animals assist in the establishment of healthy bonds, support, loyalty, and daily routines.
Whether for a service, emotional support, or friendship alone, animals have a significant impact on the happiness of mankind. Interestingly enough, researchers have come to discover that spending time with a dog or another furry friend can speed up the healing process for a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
Comfort Dogs for Crisis Response-How Our Fur Friends Help Through Crisis
There are many ups and down throughout one’s journey in recovery. Whether living with a dual-diagnosis or drug and alcohol addiction alone, we all need to feel a sense of safety. Often, feeling safe and secure comes in the form of trust and companionship. Animals offer a comfort and a sense of peace, especially in moments of extreme stress.
At times, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as other mental illnesses, can become overwhelming and unbearable, making you more susceptible to the stresses of life. Dogs and other furry companions are great for diverting one’s attention from psychological pain and pressure to pleasure and friendship.
In fact, there are comfort dogs who are trained specifically for handling a crisis response. Comfort dogs help individuals in a personal crisis who feel hopeless, fearful and have extreme anxiety.
During a crisis, such as an anxiety attack, dogs replace the experience of the crisis with feelings of compassion, hope, safety, and love.
All in all, dogs and other animals are an excellent tool for self-care and psychological first aid in recovery.
How they Help Overcome Triggers and Stressors
Staying clean and sober in recovery can be challenging and feel nearly impossible. However, having a dog or access to canine-therapy can help you hold onto the hope for a brighter future all while maintaining a sense of peace.
Activists of animal therapy claim that when a person bonds and forms a relationship with a dog or other animal, he or she develops a stronger sense of self-esteem and trust. Moreover, animal therapy helps people with improving communication skills, emotional regulation, self-stabilization, and social skills.
Unconditional Love When You Need It
Animals make us feel safe and a love that’s more or less unconditional. Additionally, dogs not only make us happier and more satisfied with life, they also help us feel more socially connected. Ultimately dog therapy allows us to open up and be honest with ourselves and with other people.
Leaving a life of isolation involves putting yourself “out there,” but in a social setting, it’s normal for most humans to feel uneasy; a fear of rejection often stops many of us from experiencing new things in recovery.
Fortunately, scientists have proven that dogs do help to diminish the unhealthy need for social isolation, allowing us to feel calmer to open up to others.
Dogs for PTSD Treatment-PTSD and Animal Therapy: Getting you Through it All
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among people with substance use disorders, although other mental health disorders are common. Having two or more disorders that co-occur is often referred to as dual-diagnosis.
PTSD alone can cause a person to be debilitated by overwhelming anxiety, horrific flashbacks, and unwanted memories. The most common causes of the disorder are childhood abuse/trauma, violent or sexual assault, military combat, and natural disasters.
Generally, those with PTSD cope with the mental and emotional pain by abusing drugs and alcohol. In fact, it’s so common that treatment centers have now dedicated an entire specialty to those wanting to recover while also suffering from PTSD or other co-occurring disorders.
Having a PTSD service dog or engaging in animal therapy is known to be highly beneficial to those who deal with addiction alongside a mental health disorder like PTSD.
Having a dual-diagnosis and getting into recovery from addiction is challenging, but there is still hope. Service dogs have an incredible impact on healing from addiction and PTSD. Among many other characteristics, a dog’s unconditional regard, nonjudgmental stance, and their protective nature can help individuals overcome the difficulties of living with PTSD and recovering from a substance use disorder.