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What Is Pet Therapy?

a person pets a dog on a bed

What Is Pet Therapy?

If you’ve ever owned a pet before, you know just how quickly a wagging tail or a soft purr can boost your mood and make your entire day. There’s nothing better than a happy bark of puppy kisses after a hard day. Pets are grateful, faithful, and are always by your side, even during the worst of times. What’s even better is that home isn’t the only place where cuddly creatures have a purpose. In fact, pet therapy has become an extremely popular way to help those undergoing addiction treatment, as well as those who are struggling with substance abuse. Some addiction treatment centers give residents young pets to take care of, while others have an on-site pet that gives patients the ability to bond and be care-free with. Having an animal around, especially at an addiction treatment center, can minimize stress and make the environment much more welcoming.

The Essentials

In broad terms, pet therapy includes animal-assisted activities that help people to recover and/or cope from health problems. These days, animals are used for all sorts of therapeutic purposes, including visits to patients in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as serving as pillars of support for those in addiction treatment. Animals serve as the purest form of emotional support, especially for those with mental health issues. Pet therapy is used to help all sorts of people, including children fighting cancer, veterans with PTSD, and everyday people who suffer from common conditions such as depression and anxiety and even addiction. It’s worth noting that almost any animal can be used in pet therapy. While dogs and cats are the most common, horses, guinea pigs, fish, and other animals can all be used, assuming they meet set screening criteria. The best animal for the job depends on the therapeutic goals of the patient.

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

There are all sorts of benefits of pet therapy. One of the biggest benefits is emotional support. This is a huge benefit for patients that may feel depressed, anxious, or uncertain about their lives. These feelings are especially common for people receiving addiction treatment. But pet therapy is for much more than just emotional support. In fact, being around an animal can increase oxytocin, which is a naturally occurring, feel-good hormone that promotes feelings of trust and happiness.1 Oxytocin also helps with healing, cell development, and overall health. Other benefits of pet therapy include:

  • Building confidence and self-worth
  • Teaching responsibility
  • Improving emotional intelligence
  • Developing social skills
  • Improving social interaction and verbal communication

Pet therapy also offers a healthy, positive emotional outlet, especially for depression, anxiety, and stress. All of these benefits increase recovery success and give patients a fun (and furry!) way to make it through treatment.

woman petting a horse

Addicted? Pet Therapy Can Help

So whether you’re a dog lover, a feline fanatic, or if you have a special connection with some other animal, pet therapy may be a great addition to your path to recovery. If you’re struggling with addiction or substance abuse and want help, call Apex Recovery today to speak to an admissions coordinator. We look forward to discussing treatment options and helping you uncover the best side of you.  

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