Throughout history, the bond between humans and animals has always been strong. From working farm animals to beloved family pets, animals play an important role in most peoples’ daily lives. Because of a natural affection that forms easily between humans and animals, animal-assisted therapy has helped millions of people with chronic illness, acute pain, and addiction. The use of animal-assisted therapy for holistic addiction treatment in Miami is helping people of all ages with addiction problems.
How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Work?
Based on the patient’s needs and condition, animals like dogs and horses are used to help improve a patient’s physical, mental and social functioning skills. Animal-assisted therapy can take place in a variety of settings. Usually led by a doctor or qualified, professional therapist, therapy can be done on an individual basis or group basis. Therapy focuses on building a bond between the patient and the animal. The patient learns to care for the animal’s needs with feeding, bathing, brushing, petting, and quiet walks. As a bond builds between the patient and the animal, the patient also learns self-discipline, self-motivation, compassion, and selfless giving. Caring for a kind, loving animal helps the patient to focus more on the needs of others and less on their own problems with drug or alcohol addiction.
Animal-assisted therapy used for drug and alcohol addiction problems differs from the use of dogs or other animals used for group activities. This type of therapy is often used to brighten the moods of ill patients in hospitals and nursing homes. In contrast, animal-assisted therapy relies on trained dogs or horses to help doctors or professional therapists achieve definite goals for overcoming addiction. Animals used in this form of goal-oriented therapy are well-trained on how to interact well with patients in a wide range of circumstances and medical conditions.
Not all animals meet the stringent requirements for animal-assisted therapy, and trainers are very selective about the animals they choose for such programs. The dogs, cats and horses often used are particularly responsive animals with an acute awareness to their surroundings. They have distinct personalities and interact with humans in a warm, friendly caring manner.
What are the Benefits?
Health studies are well-documented that show animal-assisted therapy provides both physical and psychological benefits for patients, especially those who have a difficult time expressing or talking about their emotions with other people. The strong bond that develops between a patient and an animal has no age boundaries, so adults, teens and children do well with animal-assisted therapy. Since animals are non-threatening, non-judgmental, and totally accepting of a person’s limitations, patients feel comfortable and free to express their emotions that are often hidden in traditional therapy sessions with a doctor or health professional. Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy include:
* Reduced blood pressure and risk of heart attack or stroke
* Improved fine motor skills
* Improved physical balance
* Increased focus and attention on tasks
* Enhanced problem-solving and cognitive skills
* Reduced physical need or dependence for medications
* Increased endorphin levels (a hormone produced by the brain and nervous system that reduces pain)
* Increased self-esteem and ability to care for oneself
* Reduced anxiety, grief and isolation
* Increased trust, empathy and teamwork
* Greater self-control
* Improved willingness to participate in therapy
* Improved social skills
* Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
* Reduced feelings of anger and hostility
Due to the success of animal-assisted therapy for addiction problems, dug & alcohol detox centers around the country are helping millions of people live better, healthier lives. Along with many treatment centers, the American Humane Society is a major advocate of animal-assisted therapy for illness and addiction. They continue to support animal-assisted therapy in mainstream healthcare as a successful tool to enhance a patient’s well-being and care.
Animal-assisted therapy helps the addicted patient to recognize his/her dysfunctional thoughts and destructive patterns of behavior from drug and alcohol abuse. It helps to increase patient self-awareness, self-esteem, emotional growth, and communication skills, all important tools for successfully overcoming addiction.
Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction takes a toll on millions of people each year. Professional help is necessary to overcome the physical and emotional damage caused by addiction. Although the road to recovery isn’t always easy, turning your life around is possible with courage and professional help.In addition to traditional treatments, animal-assisted holistic therapy for addiction recovery is proving to be a powerful type of healing treatment for the body, the mind, and the soul.