Animal Assisted Therapy

There is something about petting, playing, or generally spending time with animals that helps ease the mind and body. But the power behind snuggling up your furry friend is not a simple anecdotal experience as there is a science behind it.

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What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Also known as animal therapy or pet therapy, animal-assisted therapy is a method that involves using animals to assist those with certain mental or physical health conditions. It is based on a concept known as the human-animal bond, which we define as a desire to bond with friendly animals by interacting with them. What animal is used will depend greatly on a person’s condition or symptoms, as different animals can provide different kinds of therapy. Generally, animals can help give comfort, alert people if someone is in trouble, and can even take a specific course of action to help someone in need. Animal-assisted therapy can be used as complementary therapy, as its main goal is to help alleviate symptoms (like signs of depression in teens) or help people cope with their conditions.

How Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work?

Animal-assisted therapy is quite flexible, as it works differently depending on the goals of the therapist and the condition or needs of a person. For example, when managing the signs of depression in teens, animal therapy can be used to provide a person with comfort and help them feel more motivated. In fact, research has shown that even the simple act of petting an animal helps release mood-elevating and mind-relaxing chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin.

Concerning the animals used in animal-assisted therapy, not just any random animal is used or brought in during sessions. Only healthy, well-trained, and friendly animals are allowed in animal therapy. To ensure this, animals always go through various testing to make sure they are disease-free and have the right behavior.

Accompanying the animal during a session is a handler or the owner, who works under the guidance of the doctor or therapist. These people and their animals are always trained first by an organization before they can begin assisting with someone's therapy. Neither the animal nor handler will be able to participate in animal-assisted therapy without the right certifications.

Who Benefits from Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy benefits those experiencing certain mental or physical health issues as animals can help kick-start the therapy process.

For those with mental health conditions, animal therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate feelings of fear or worry, and give emotional support. These and others make animal therapy great for checking signs of depression in teens, assisting those with dementia, and reducing the effects of PTSD.

With physical health conditions, animal therapy can help people who have epilepsy, aid those recovering from surgery, and can assist those who have conditions that affect their motor skills. Animal therapy can also help boost a person’s confidence and keep their minds off the pain.

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For more information about animal-assisted therapy and how it can help you or a member of your family, please feel free to contact us.