How Animals Can Help In Recovery

  • 04/02/2021

Animals are amazing creatures and being lucky enough to own a pet is a privilege. People might not realise that animal companionship can also provide a multitude of health benefits.

Sure, it's cute to play with a kitten and it's fun to play fetch with your dog. But while you are giving your pet a place to call home, they are giving you so much in return.

The Benefits of Owning a Pet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several benefits to owning a pet. Since more than half of the households in the United States have pets, people seem to agree.

Some benefits may seem more obvious, while others are less apparent but still useful. Owning a pet can help:

●       Relieve depression and anxiety.

●       Lower stress levels.

●       Improve heart health.

●       Increase opportunities for exercise.

●       Reduce loneliness.

●       Provide purpose.

Animals Can Help in Recovery

While owning a pet can be helpful in general, access to pets or other animals while in recovery for drug or alcohol addiction can be especially beneficial. Therapy with animals has a specific name -- animal-assisted therapy (AAT).

Many animals naturally provide some of the most basic human needs: comfort and support. Animals aren't judgemental and also provide another human need: touch. AAT works for all kinds of recovery, from mental health to pediatric to geriatric care.

According to researchers, when you interact with animals, the levels of oxytocin and serotonin in your brain increase. These are responsible for encouraging bonding and creating feel-good chemicals.

Dr. Boris Levinson helped develop AAT in the 1960s, but the principles have been around for years. Early examples occurred in the Middle Ages, when pets and people rehabilitated together in Belgium. Famed psychologist Sigmund Freud also used animals as therapy - his dog was a calming influence on clients during their therapy sessions with him.

Why Dogs Can Be Especially Helpful

Dogs are the pet of choice for many people in recovery. In fact, some rehab centers are altering their policies to allow pets to visit or even stay with clients during recovery programs. These centers know the benefits that dogs can bring to people in recovery.

That’s because dogs can understand much of what we say. They can also understand our tone and body language. They can sense our feelings and have a keen sense of what we need and when we need it.

Pets such as dogs also help in other ways. People who attend drug and alcohol recovery centers often benefit from structure and routine.

Taking care of an animal can provide those things. From regular feeding and exercise schedules to their undeniable need for positive attention, dogs can bring balance to those looking for a new focus after addiction. If you're looking for a sense of purpose, caring for a dog or other animal could help during your recovery and in other areas of your life.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Sources - About Pets & People - Talk to the Animals: Animal-Assisted Therapy Offers Emotional Support - Inpatient Alcohol Rehab | Alcohol Rehab Facilities

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