Animal Therapy Today
Animal assisted therapy was first used in the 1800s. At that time animals would sit by a sick or injured person’s side, helping them heal more quickly. Animal therapy has come a long way, and today animals are being used to help people heal physically, psychologically, and emotionally as they recover from substance abuse.
Sometimes it is simply the presence of the animal that helps. A dog or horse nearby can actually calm a person down and help them focus on something other than their problems. Other times, the animals help a person open up and talk during therapy sessions. Animals are not going to judge the patient for things they have messed up on, and the feeling that an animals doesn’t know or care about past problems can make the patient much more comfortable.
Another way animals are used in therapy is to have the patient take care of an animal. The patient benefits from spending time with and caring for the animal. They learn responsibility and the value in taking care of a living being. Patients also benefit because feeding and exercising an animal are positive activities that redirect them from their substance abuse.
The Bond Between Patients and Animals
Animals that are used in drug rehab are likely to be trained for such a job. Many of the pets come from shelters and have led hard lives themselves. Therapy animals can be cats, dogs, and birds, but also larger animals like horses. Therapy animals are expected to be calm and obedient, and will be happy simply to be close to the patient. In fact, many of the animals seem to be able to sense the patient’s emotions, and will know when to get closer to give more support. Counselors often like the assistance of animals because it seems that when a patient is having a particularly hard time, a therapy animal will move in and help the person relax. A bond is often formed between the patient and the animal, so that more progress can be made during therapy sessions.
Animal therapy can help the patient experience decreased stress levels, lower blood pressure, and less anger, tension, and anxiety. Patients will, on the other hand, feel empowered, able to trust, and more confident in themselves.
Animal therapy may not be for everyone, but for those that enjoy being around animals, the rewards can be great. Be sure to check in your area to see if this kind of therapy is offered.