Animal lovers already know how good it feels to interact with their pet. Now research has shown that this positive effect can also be applied in a therapeutic setting. Leveraging the power of pets is becoming a vital tool in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and disorders [I] – particularly those associated with mental health. Here we explore the different types of pet therapy making their mark and how it can be used to successfully treat a wide range of conditions.
Pet therapy is defined as a guided interaction between a specially trained animal and an individual or group, facilitated by the animal’s handler [ii]. Also known as animal-assisted therapy, pet therapy interactions are used to help improve patients’ mental, social, emotional, and physical functions. Therapy can take place in a wide range of settings including hospitals, care homes, and treatment centers and can involve different activities such as walking, looking after, and grooming the therapy animal. Just like any other form of treatment, the specific components of the pet-therapy program are decided on a case-by-case basis so they address the particular needs of each patient.
Trained animals [iii] are used to benefit patients suffering with emotional and behavioral disorders, depression, autism, substance abuse, and dementia. Animals accept us as we are — they don’t judge and they don’t threaten — so patients can wholeheartedly interact with them safe in the knowledge that there is no hidden agenda.
Individuals with emotionally based disorders in particular may find it difficult to open up and trust another human being, but discover this process is much easier with a therapy animal. Frequently reported benefits from pet-therapy programs include a reduction in stress, a boost in self-esteem, improved mood, and better communication skills [iv].
Let’s look in a bit more detail at three health and wellness areas where therapy pets can make a real difference — mental health, dementia, and substance abuse. see remaining article at the link below