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What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Many mental health professionals use animal therapy to help their patients find relief from various issues. Animals provide unconditional love and acceptance, which can comfort those struggling. Talk to your therapist to determine if this therapy is suitable for you. Here’s what to know about animal assisted therapy and its benefits:

How Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work?

This therapy form is also known as pet therapy. It involves using animals like cats, dogs, and horses in a therapeutic setting to help people cope with emotional and mental health issues. This type of therapy works by helping patients express themselves through the bond they form with an animal. The patient can pet, cuddle, and play with the animal, and that positive interaction can help them feel more relaxed.

Dogs are a popular animal used in this therapy practice. The dog and the owner must first receive training and certification before participating in therapy sessions. The goal is to create a safe environment for everyone involved where the patient can interact with the animal positively. Animal assisted therapy can help with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, PTSD, ADHD, autism, fears and phobias, bipolar disorders, and other mental health conditions.

Animal therapy shouldn’t be confused with service animals. Service animals are trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities or special needs. These can be guide dogs, hearing dogs, or medical alert animals. Animal therapy is more centered on providing therapeutic support.

Benefits of Animal Therapy

1. Improved Moods

As you interact with an animal and feel its unconditional love, your body may respond by releasing feel-good chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones can uplift your moods and help you feel happier. If you’ve been feeling down, petting an animal may be just what you need to get your spirits back on track. Talk to your therapist about incorporating this aspect into your treatment.

2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

People with anxiety disorders often find it hard to interact with other people. This can make them feel isolated and lonely, leading to more stress and anxiety. Animal therapy provides a safe way for anxious people to interact with an animal in an environment that isn’t overwhelming. Petting and cuddling can help to ease tension and reduce stress levels, so they can better manage their feelings and cope with overwhelming situations.

3. Improved Social Skills

Animal therapy can help people with communication and social difficulties. An animal can allow you to practice your communication and social skills in a less intimidating environment. For those struggling to form bonds with other people, animals can act as social bridges that can help them ease into social interactions with other people. When combined with other therapy sessions, animal therapy can be a powerful tool to help patients improve their social skills.

4. Reduced Loneliness

Having an animal around you provides a sense of comfort and companionship. Animals can provide a calming presence that people may find comforting when feeling lonely. This can be especially helpful for those living in isolation due to their mental health condition. As they bond with the animal, they may feel less isolated and more connected to the world. If you feel lonely and disconnected, suggest animal therapy to your therapist.

5. Better Anger Management

Anger is a normal emotion, but it can lead to negative consequences when it gets out of control. People with anger issues often struggle to manage their emotions and may end up hurting themselves or others. Animal therapy can help people learn how to calm down and better regulate their anger. By forming a positive bond with an animal, patients can learn to recognize their triggers and better control their reactions. Animal therapy can be effective in a comprehensive treatment plan for managing anger.

6. Enhanced Self-esteem

Animals accept us just as we are. This can help people struggling with self-esteem issues find more confidence. Experiencing unconditional love from an animal may help you view yourself in a more positive light. That can be a strong tool for rebuilding self-esteem and finding greater peace.

Consider Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy has many benefits for those struggling with mental health issues. It’s an effective and natural way of dealing with psychological problems without relying on medication or substances. Discuss this therapy with your therapist if you think it may be right for you. Combined with other therapy forms, animal therapy may help you find relief from various issues.

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