Addiction treatment is a long battle and requires an unending zeal and a will to live a healthy and sober life. The treatment process for alcohol and drug addiction usually starts with medications and is solely focused on identifying and treating the source of addiction. A patient, while seeking treatment, usually comes across numerous types of therapies including 12-step programs, behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, etc. While these standard treatment methods are used by several medical centers and rehab facilities, there are conventional methods that are also used to help the patient in their fight against addiction. These treatment approaches, which are different from the standard processes, are beneficial to relax and calm a disturbed mind. Although various holistic therapies are used by medical professionals while treating addiction such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and even art therapy, others may choose to get involved in animal-assisted therapy.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy, as the name suggests, registers the involvement of animals to help with a variety of health issues. For people suffering from mental disorders, critical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, and even patients dealing with substance abuse disorder, animal-assisted therapy has proven to be quite effective. The therapy involves interaction with the animals which helps alleviate uncomfortable feelings and provides a sense of serenity.
Spending time with animals is also seen to boost the release of endorphins in our body which eases our mind and reduces the feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, aggression, and low self-esteem. It is seen in various cases that even a brief interaction with dogs can incite positive feelings and lower pain-related symptoms. Numerous hospitals now have friendly dogs who are used to comfort patients who are stressed with their various ailments.
However, not only dogs but other animals can also be used to comfort patients and make them feel good. Today, some rehabilitation centers use a variety of animals such as cats, rabbits, horses, birds, etc., to offer animal-assisted therapy to their patients.
Why Is Animal-Assisted Therapy Used?
Pets share an extraordinary bond with their owners. The fact that being near your pet provides a great feeling is well known, and this is exactly what drives the basic idea of animal-assisted therapy. Various studies over the years have concluded that the presence of pets around can have a positive impact on our minds and help boost the recovery process.
Here’s why pets can be a great choice to offer aid during the addiction treatment:
As soon as someone turns to addiction, their unwillingness to accept any responsibility, no matter how big or small, towards anyone is the first issue that needs to be fixed. Pets are living creatures who demand only love with an additional responsibility to handle them with care. When with pets, addicts know they have a responsibility to take care of something, and this time, it’s not about them. Having this feeling inside can aid those in recovery to think about something other than themselves.
Pets indeed respond to our emotions rather than our actions. Being around animals who understand emotions and react accordingly can help the patients control their responses, and adjust it to sync with the animal’s emotional needs and not their own.
Confidence and Self-Worth
Unlike anything else in this world, pets show gratitude for even the smallest gesture of love shown to them. When a patient interacts with a pet, their ability to handle the pet in a good way can induce a feeling of self-confidence. This also inspires them to conduct more selfless acts in the future as they progress in their life.
The Best Emotional Escape
Playing with pets and spending even a small amount of time with them might just become the best time of your day. They provide a healthy emotional escape from the issues burdening your minds such as anxiety, stress, and depression.
Types of Animal-Assisted Therapy
According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are two ways in which animals are involved in therapies.
In this type, volunteers take ownership of taking their gentle and well-trained pets to different settings involving hospitals or schools. The idea is to make the patients who are suffering from a critical disease or have gone through a painful surgery feel a lot better. Pet therapy is quite straight forward and provides the joy of petting a happy animal and the fun of being around one. This type of therapy is extremely beneficial as it relieves stress and promotes the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that provides emotional stability and also aids in maintaining physical health.
This is a more specific approach where the animal is involved in the treatment process based on the recommendations of social workers, therapists, and counselors. Although this therapy can be carried out with a variety of animals, two of the most commonly used therapies involving animals are canine-assisted therapy (dogs) and equine-assisted therapy (horses).
Effectiveness of the Therapy
There have been mixed levels of effectiveness observed in such kinds of therapies. However, in people who relate to animals, animal-assisted therapy has proven to be quite effective. One report from Current Pain and Headache Reports states that using animal-assisted therapy on cancer patients resulted in low pain levels. This is also clinically proven by observing the increased levels of endorphins after the patient’s interaction with the animal.
For substance abuse disorder, studies say that involving a dog in the sessions between a therapist and a patient can make the person feel more confident and positive. This increases the effectiveness of the session. Also, when animal-assisted therapy is used in a rehab center along with other standard treatment methods, it is bound to provide great results.
Medications, therapies, psychoanalysis, and other standard approaches are already being used to tackle addiction. Having another treatment method to complement these standard treatment procedures can improve and enhance the efficacy of the recovery process.
Animal-assisted therapy is known to yield desirable results. So, if you are seeking treatment for a loved one, it is advisable to look for rehab centers that also offers animal-assisted therapy as a part of their recovery program. The therapy provides positivity and as an addict, you might want to consider every source that fills you with that.
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