Animal-assisted therapy is not intended to be a stand-alone treatment. When paired with other treatments for drug use disorders, the therapeutic method helps drive individuals to continue in treatment. Animals may also help therapists and clients resolve mental health issues in ways that other methods of treatment cannot.

Dogs, horses, and even dolphins have a significant influence on many people. When a person begins treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, they will most likely go through several forms of therapy, such as group or behavioral therapy, and maybe a pharmaceutical regimen to help them recover. Holistic therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, or art therapy may also be provided to certain patients. Others may be able to participate in animal-assisted therapy with dogs, horses, and even dolphins.

The Benefits

Animal-assisted therapy for drug use disorders has received less attention than AAT for other mental health issues. According to published research involving patients suffering from addiction, the therapy appears to increase the “therapeutic alliance,” a phrase referring to the bond between a patient and their therapist.

Many people with drug abuse issues drop out of therapy too soon. A solid therapeutic connection increases the likelihood that patients will continue treatment and benefit from it. The presence of an animal during treatment is thought to improve the therapeutic relationship and lessen anxiety.

Animal-assisted therapy is used to treat individuals with mental disorders, inmates, people with illnesses such as cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s disease, and those suffering from drug misuse disorders. Interacting with animals decreases emotions of aggressiveness, sadness, and anxiety while also making people happier and calmer. Visiting with a dog has been demonstrated in studies to alleviate discomfort and pain-related symptoms, and friendly dogs are frequently employed in hospitals to calm worried patients. Many addiction treatment clinics now provide patients with animal-assisted therapy, which includes a wide range of animals such as cats, birds, rabbits, and horses.

Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Many people who struggle with substance misuse have a history of trauma or abuse. Animal-assisted therapy, when done correctly, may be able to benefit those people in ways that therapists cannot. Anxiety, depression, and insecurity may all be reduced through animal-assisted therapy. Anxiety and mood problems frequently coexist with drug use disorders. Animal-assisted therapy may enhance recovery results when used as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy that addresses all underlying reasons for addiction.

Canine-Assisted Therapy

The most common kind of animal-assisted therapy involves man’s greatest friend: the dog. Friendly, clever, and simple to teach are just a few of the characteristics that make dogs an obvious choice when it comes to selecting an animal to employ in treatment for those suffering from a drug use problem. Canine-assisted therapy has been utilized to treat persons with mental impairments, diseases and to help jailed people get back on their feet. Petting and interacting with a dog can stimulate the brain to produce more endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin, all of which are important for making you happy. Being around a dog also helps people feel at ease and open up, increasing their likelihood of speaking to the dog when they are afraid to speak with a therapist. Opening this line of contact allows patients to communicate more successfully with their counselor. According to studies, bringing dogs inside rehab centers allows doctors to acquire a better understanding of their patients.

Some institutions bring in shelter dogs, while others enable patients to bring their own dogs with them into rehabilitation. Caring for an animal improves emotions of purpose and responsibility, and having dogs around improves the moods of staff workers, making the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. Dogs can also evoke pleasant memories for patients of a childhood pet or a child’s wish to get a pet, and everyone can appreciate the unconditional affection that dogs provide. A dog does not judge and will readily offer affection to everyone, regardless of their addiction history, and spending time with a dog provides sufferers something to look forward to while also helping to alleviate loneliness.

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine refers to horses and the members of the horse family, and equine therapy is the therapeutic use of horses. There are numerous forms of equine-assisted therapy, each with its own set of techniques and aims. Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) focuses on the client’s and their family’s emotional wellness and frequently involves family members. Equine-assisted learning (EAL) teaches people how to regulate their behavioral and emotional reactions by studying the horse’s responses. Because of the horse’s capacity to read and mirror human emotions, this allows clients to improve on communication skills and reflect on their own sentiments and actions. The objective of EAL is to increase self-awareness and social awareness, as well as self-management and personal responsibility. Hippotherapy makes use of the movement of the horse to encourage individuals to achieve physical therapy goals. Therapeutic riding focuses on physical health and self-confidence from learning to ride a horse, and Hippotherapy uses the horse’s movement to encourage patients to achieve physical therapy goals. Hippotherapy is commonly used to treat individuals with impairments such as autism or multiple sclerosis.

Horseback riding is not the only component in equine-assisted therapy, but it may be included. Patients may be required to groom, feed, and clean up after the horse. This offers recovering addicts a sense of responsibility by allowing them to care for another live thing. Horses are huge, strong, and often intimidating animals, and it can take time for them to trust the people around them. Bonding with a horse might help the addict in developing trust and communication skills with the animal. Because horses are frequently nervous, having emotional outbursts around the animal is not acceptable. This teaches patients how to control their impulses, regulate their emotions, and create limits.

Find The Right Therapy Options

Animal-assisted therapy is now available at many rehabilitation centers around the country. For assistance in locating one, contact a treatment professional who can speak with you about rehab alternatives.

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