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Pet Therapy 101: What Is It and What Are the Benefits for Addiction Recovery?

a person smiles as they hold a dog

Only 10% of people that have addiction issues will seek treatment. However, those who decide to go to treatment will be exposed to various treatment methods, including the 12 step program, cognitive behavioral therapy, and pet therapy.

If you’re reading this, we will assume that you’re looking for information on the benefits of pet therapy for addiction recovery. So read on now and take the next step in getting your life back on track.

What Is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is also known as animal-assisted addiction treatment. This form of treatment is when animals are used during recreational and therapeutic activities for those that participate in them.

It’s assumed that this form of therapy provides spiritual healing properties for those that are in addiction recovery. As recovering addicts work with animals, they will begin to form a bond that benefits them in several ways.

Working with animals will help to stimulate the feel-good neurotransmitters naturally instead of being stimulated by the presence of drugs within the body. It’s also a wonderful way to teach people in recovery how to create and nourish bonds that are positive and won’t lead them down a negative path. 

If you’re still unsure how pet therapy is useful, here are some of its most common benefits.

Helps Teach Responsibility

Amid your addiction, the only thing you cared about was yourself and getting your next fix or doing what it took not to be sick. Because of this, you forgot about the responsibilities you had, such as going to school or paying household bills.

In pet therapy, you will begin to learn what it’s like to have responsibilities again. However, if you don’t have the discipline necessary to fulfill your responsibilities, it could put you at risk of relapsing.

Animals will help increase responsibility and reduce the likelihood of you acting impulsively because there’s the understanding that your animal relies on you to take care of them.

Creates Healthy Habits

A dog needs to go on walks regularly. A cat needs its litter box to be cleaned out, or else it will begin to smell.

When you have a pet, you do several things daily to ensure that they’re cared for properly. Engaging in pet therapy helps people in recovery to continue developing healthy habits that they will carry with them long after they’ve left treatment.

Pet therapy helps to promote living a healthier lifestyle and changing the habits you engage in during your everyday life. By changing your habits, you can increase your chances of remaining sober.

Gets Rid of Negative Emotions

After a long day, when you come home and your pet is waiting to jump up and down and greet you at the door, how can you continue to think negatively? Animals make people feel good and reduce negative emotions and thoughts that they may have.

Keep in mind when you sit and allow yourself to wallow in emotions like:

  • Shame
  • Guilty 
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loneliness

It can make it more challenging to do what it takes to remain sober.

You learn in treatment how to spot these negative thoughts before they turn into negative behaviors triggering a relapse. Participating in pet therapy can ensure that you have less of these negative emotions because being around animals improves your overall mood.

How Does Pet Therapy Work?

When you begin pet therapy, there are several things that you can expect to happen depending on what you’re expecting to gain from the experience. Pet therapy can also change as time continues and you find yourself at a different point in your recovery journey.

When your pet therapy session begins, the provider will attend with the animals; they are also classified as animal handlers. Their job is to ensure that all therapy participants and the animals are safe at all times.

To become a handler, a person has to take specific training to ensure that they know the proper way to conduct a session. Then, as the session continues, the animal and handler will help those in recovery work towards the goals that they’ve set for themselves ahead of time.

Types of Pet Therapy

Several types of pet therapy can be offered to people in treatment. The first is known as equine therapy, and that is therapeutic services featuring a horse.

This type of therapy can help improve the emotional health of the client, or it can be used to teach people in recovery how to manage their emotions and behaviors better.

Another form of pet therapy is canine therapy. It’s one of the most common forms of pet therapy because dogs can help a person relax and help people become more open to sharing deep thoughts with their treatment team that they are normally unwilling to share.

Another form of this therapy is dolphin therapy. This is best for those that love the thought and feeling of being in the water.

This form of therapy is often only offered in the rehab center is located closer to the water. Dolphins have a way of making people feel like they’re accepted, which is essential because feeling alone and isolated is a huge part of what causes people to relapse.

Pet Therapy: Barking Up the Right Tree

Pet therapy has tons of benefits for those that choose it as a part of their rehabilitation treatment plan. It can help to teach responsibility while also making you feel good.

Are you ready to take the next step and enter treatment? If so, it’s time to contact APEX Recovery Rehab. We have the staff and resources that you need to ensure that you’re taking the necessary steps to lead a healthier life.

Call Our Toll-Free Hotline 24/7 at 877.881.2689