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Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-Assisted Therapy



Animal-Assisted Therapy

In 2012 62% of American households confirmed they had at least one pet, so even if they aren’t participating in sanctioned animal therapies, they have an animal nearby to provide comfort. An American child psychologist, Dr. Boris Levinson, noted that pets provided an island of sanity no matter what type of animal they were. Individuals could rely on their friendship with a pet to always be non-competitive and faithful no matter what life has in store.

Dr. Levenson came up with the idea of animal-assisted therapy back in the 1960s. He realized that one of his patients, a nine-year-old boy, was less withdrawn during his therapy sessions when his pet dog was with him in the room. In 1961, the idea of pet-assisted therapy was pitched to the American Psychological Association, where it was met with cynicism. Still, ten years later, 16% of psychologists were using some form of companion animals in therapy sessions.

Today animal therapy is much more widely accepted and integrated to treat a variety of mental health conditions as well as substance use disorders.


What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is an approach to treatment where an animal is used to help recover from physical or psychological ailments. It can also be used to help people cope with medical conditions.

Prevail Recovery Center provides addiction treatment and holistic therapies including animal-assisted therapy programs. Contact us today to learn more about our animal-assisted therapy programs in Fort Lauderdale and Knoxville for mental health and addiction treatment.


How is Animal-Assisted Therapy Used in Treatment?

You get designated times to interact with animals through an animal therapy program. This might involve caring for animals. For example, with animal-assisted therapy in south Florida that uses horses, you might go to a facility that houses horses to feed them, groom them, and bathe them once or twice per week. With dog-assisted therapy, you might go about your regularly assigned psychotherapy sessions but have a dog present to put distance between yourself and your trauma or struggles while petting the dog or interacting with the dog. Dog-assisted therapy might also include going to a shelter or facility where you walk the dogs, bathe them, and feed them. Some animal-assisted therapy programs allow you to bring your pet with you to a rehabilitation center so you can take care of an animal even for a short amount of time, without having to leave the safety and comfort of your inpatient rehab facility.

You don’t have to own a pet in order to use pet-assisted therapy. It can provide the same benefits when working with a service animal or visiting therapy animals. This is simply an umbrella term that encompasses all types of recreational, educational, and therapeutic activities involving animals. What’s most important is that you work with licensed professionals during your animal therapy program and that it is designed as a goal-directed intervention related to your overall addiction treatment plan.



What are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy?

This type of therapy provides a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better empathy
  • Improved mental health
  • Personal and social development


Interacting with animals is associated with many benefits, including reduced blood pressure, changes in your body’s stress responses, increased physical activity, and lower cholesterol. Even simple things like petting a cat for a few minutes release calming chemicals in the body that reduce your blood pressure.

A report from 2011 indicated that 60% of hospice care providers used pet therapy as an alternative therapy. Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to help people with PTSD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and even addiction. One study used horses as their animal assistance therapy for people with dementia, and it found that interactions with horses had positive results, reducing negative behavior and improving moods.

Animal-assisted therapy has recently been used to treat substance use disorders. In particular, this can involve having an animal present during therapy to help reduce anxiety and form a more trusting relationship between you and your therapist. Animal-assisted therapy in south Florida can also extend to horseback riding, playing with dogs or walking dogs, and caring for a service animal.

Animal assistance therapy helps with recovery by improving mood, bolstering communication skills and social skills, and increasing your confidence. There is often a lot of unprocessed trauma, mental health disorders, or emotional struggles during addiction recovery. Animals can help you remain mindful of your emotions in real-time so that you aren’t overwhelmed by them.

Other studies found that adults who used animal-assisted therapy during recovery required 50% less pain medication. When applied to recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, this same type of therapy can be integrated into your rehab program to help you require less medication immediately following things like detox and teach you to better manage or cope with the pain and struggle that follows.

Animal-assisted therapy is not meant to replace things like pain management medication or individual psychotherapy as part of your rehab. Instead, it’s meant to be one part of your overarching plan. Medications might help you manage previously undiagnosed mental health conditions like depression, but at the same time, using animal-assisted therapy can trigger a multitude of benefits that reduces the amount of medication you require.

If you struggle with mental health disorders in addition to your substance abuse, engaging with an animal and caring for an animal can help you process part of those symptoms. People who struggle with things like anxiety and mood disorders can enjoy increased recovery outcomes by redirecting anxiety loops in their brains through interactions with animals. People who have survived things like assault can reorient their minds toward mutually beneficial and healthy physical interactions.



What are the Types of Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy goes beyond walking a dog or petting a cat. Horses are regularly used, and some programs may use animals like rabbits, goats, pigs, birds, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs. However, most intervention-based therapies use dogs or horses to help with substance abuse.

Again, many of these animal-assisted therapy programs in South Florida are designed to fit your needs in many ways. For example:

  1. Some programs bring you an animal that provides comfort during your regular therapy sessions, placing you at ease when discussing your addiction or mental health status.
  2. Other programs let you care for an animal, like a dog or horse. With these animal-assisted therapy programs, you usually work with a facility and an animal therapist who monitors the activities.
  3. Still, some involve simple outdoor activities like walking dogs or riding horses along the beach.

How to Find Animal-AssistedTherapy Programs Near Me

Like all types of therapy, the integration of animal-assisted therapy into your drug and alcohol rehab program is something that should be agreed upon by staff members at your facility. Professionals will be able to help you decide what type of animal-assisted therapy is offered in your area and would work best as a complementary and holistic treatment program for your overarching rehab plan.

At our South Florida rehab facility, we specialize in treating the mind and body as one. A big part of that specialty is to provide a range of cutting-edge holistic treatments like yoga therapy, Reiki, Sound Therapy, Guided Meditations, medication management, and animal-assisted therapy programs. We work hard to customize a program that takes into account your needs, and while you recover with us, that might include working with a trained animal therapist.

At Prevail Recovery Center, we specialize in treating the mind and body as one. A big part of that specialty is to provide a range of cutting-edge holistic treatments like yoga therapy, Reiki, Sound Therapy, Guided Meditations, medication management, and animal-assisted therapy programs. We work hard to customize a program that takes into account your needs, and while you recover with us, that might include working with a trained animal therapist.

Contact Prevail Recovery Center today to learn more about animal-assisted therapy and outpatient addiction treatment programs in Fort Lauderdale and Knoxville

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