Animal-assisted therapy uses canines, felines, equines and other animals to help those struggling with alcoholism, drug abuse or or mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety. Changing Tides is a pet-friendly facility that allows both dogs and cats so that our clients can be close to their furry friends throughout recovery. We genuinely believe in the power of animals in the healing process.
What Is Pet-Assisted Therapy?
Pet-assisted therapy uses animals as a therapeutic modality. Animal-assisted therapy, also known as AAT, benefits people in a few ways. The animals help therapists push toward several goals, including:
- Improving patients’ physical health
- Building rapport
- Increasing self-esteem
- Providing motivation
- Reducing stress
Visitation programs use the client’s own pets as the animals that assist with therapy. They may need to be temperament tested to be included in the program.
Can Dogs and Cats Sense Depression?
Dogs and cats comfort humans instinctively; no special training necessary. Those who are ill or struggling with mental health concerns may find that their pets are overly attentive.
Can pets actually sense depression or other illnesses? The short answer is yes. People give off different scents and have changes in body language that give them away to their pets.
Did you know that dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors? This makes them very good at smelling changes in your body chemistry, giving them an opportunity to step in and help.
They have the ability to sense when there is a drop in serotonin in your body by smelling changes in your hormones. Dogs can also sense when you’re sweating more than normal, which can help them recognize anxiety or other issues. They may come closer to you or avoid you, depending on how you react in certain states.
Cats are particularly attentive to emotional changes, too. They are able to read a room, leaving to indicate they are uncomfortable or coming closer to provide comfort to someone who is sad or upset.
What Are the Types of Therapy Animals?
There are many kinds of therapy animals. At Changing Tides, we allow you to bring your cat or dog from home. Some of the other therapy animals recognized within the recovery community include:
- Guinea pigs
The kinds of animals available at an addiction recovery program are directly tied to the space and the number of people who have been trained to use these animals for treatment purposes.
How Do Animals Help in the Recovery Process?
While you’re recovering, having a dog or cat present is a great way to boost your oxytocin. Spending time with an animal helps your body release this so-called “cuddle chemical” that helps improve your sense of well-being, according to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Playing with a pet can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels. These chemicals are essential in regulating mood disorders.
Dogs and cats also provide support, but the physical support is different. Dogs are often willing to step in to prevent a person from harming themselves. They’re often larger, so they can learn to bring medications or help manage anxiety attacks. Cats, on the other hand, can be beneficial when learning behavior modification, as they are more independent and won’t put up with bad behavior.
On top of all this, the Mayo Clinic reports that animal-assisted therapy has been shown to reduce pain without the use of medications. If an animal could help you cope with health problems without any risky side effects, would you want to have one next to you? We believe the answer is a resounding “yes,” which is why we have a pet-friendly program here at Changing Tides.
How Does Our Animal-Assisted Therapy Work?
In some cases, outside animals are brought in for treatment sessions. They stay with you for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
In our facility, we allow you to have your own approved pet live with you in our residential rehab program. That lets you experience the feel-good moment of seeing them welcome you back to your room or the security of having them with you while discussing experiences you find upsetting.
How Can Having Your Own Pet Present Help During Recovery?
Part of the power of having your pet present during recovery is that you have constant companionship during the process. Whether you’re struggling with an anxiety attack or resting and relaxing, you have a furry companion by your side. They help reduce stress and anxiety, boost your mood and give you the quiet support that many people lack. Plus, you won’t have to worry about whether your favorite feline or canine is being well cared for while you’re in recovery.
A strong relationship with your pet also teaches responsibility and accountability. Without you, your pet may not be able to access food, water or shelter. Caring for another living thing takes the focus away from yourself and places it on the animal that you’re caring for, helping you see the bigger picture throughout your recovery.
Contact Changing Tides to Learn More About Animal-Assisted Therapy
At Changing Tides, we want to do all we can to help you move forward through addiction and into a stable, sober lifestyle. If you’re interested in our program, contact us for a free consultation at 252-596-0584. We look forward to meeting you and your furry best friend.