Animal Therapy as Part of Addiction Treatment

Treatments for addiction come in many different varieties. There are addiction treatment options for Christians, Buddhists, holistic people, famous people, nature people, city people and many other basic varieties of personalities and professions. Different types of treatment facilities feature different methods of treating addiction, featuring some direct work on mental health through established psychology, some adjustments to the person’s chemical make-up through medication and diet, and a number of different therapeutic activities. One therapeutic activity that is becoming widely used in addiction treatment is animal therapy; the practice of bringing people who are enrolled in the addiction treatment program to a place where they can spend time with animals, most commonly horses or dogs due to their relationship capabilities.

Animal therapy has been found to be very effective for those struggling with addiction for a number of reason. Many people naturally like animals anyway, and spending time with them can be a harmless pleasurable activity. Mental health specialists have found that animals have a calming effect on people, and can help them open their minds and hearts to positivity. It is not uncommon for someone afflicted with addiction to have trust issues in their relationships. But in a relationship with an animal, trust comes naturally because animals are not deceitful creatures. On occasion, they have been known to break rules and try to cover it up, but on the whole, they are capable of very little deception. Making a relationship with an animal means lending trust, as well as giving affection and respect; all valuable lessons for someone struggling with addiction to learn.

Even outside of addiction treatment, animals have been known to have positive effects on recovering addicts. As a person readjusts to the world and practices their recovery, having the love of an animal can go a long way. Caring for an animal pushes the recovering addict to be on a schedule to give the animal what it needs, budget money correctly to buy the animal what it needs and be available to the animal, teaching the individual a number of relationship values.

How a Pet Can Brighten Your Life

The benefits of having a pet are widely known. Caring for an animal, typically a dog or cat, has been proven to lower blood pressure, extend longevity and help heal disease, both mental and physical. Studies are now beginning to show that building a relationship with a pet can also help treat addiction and mental disorder. The reasons for this is caring for an animal teaches a person the responsibility of having a dependent, how to build trust and communication and how to open their heart to a companion.

Learning to be responsible for an animal teaches a person how to schedule things such as meal times and walks and how to stay on top of tasks such as veterinary visits and training. This is important in the healing of addiction and mental disorders in a number of ways. It calls the afflicted person to put their pet’s needs before their own, which teaches coping skills in order to move past issues having to do with the self.

Building trust and communication with an animal can teach a person a lot about relationship skills, which is important to beating an addiction or a mental disorder. Caring properly for an animal will win its trust, and the animal will show its trust in its behavior. Animals never put on a front and will not show you trust unless you have earned it. Communicating with your pet requires patience and effort, as it does in human relationships. You cannot force or rush communication with your pet. The animal must be trained diligently over a period of time to understand your commands.

And lastly, one of the most important things that owning a pet can teach an addict or a person with a mental disorder is how to open their heart and be vulnerable with another creature. We come to love our pets very much, and this emotion can be challenging to people who have hurt in their pasts. However, when a person embraces the love they have for their pet, it enriches their lives and gives them a feeling of purpose. Owning a pet is time consuming and challenging, but the rewards it offers can make a huge difference in the life of an addict or a person with a mental disorder.


How Love for Animals Helps People

People are very relationship oriented. We need closeness with one another and closeness with fellow creatures in order to feel good. Animals and people have an interesting relationship with one another. Because animals lack the cognitive and linguistic abilities that people possess, but still have emotional and relational capabilities, humans form a unique kind of relationship with animals. Humans and animals never have a full understanding of one another, yet they can still form a friendship around what they do understand about one another. Humans share a need for fun, sociability and affection with many types of animals, and caring for one can do a person a lot of good.

The ways that people are improved by relationships with animals are many. Animals teach people a number of relationship skills, such as how to care for a fellow creature and how to be responsible for another’s needs. The responsibility of providing for an animal gives people a sense of purpose and a reason for being. Through caring for an animal, a person will learn the basics of giving and receiving trust, respect and communication.

It has been found in many instances that caring for an animal improves a person’s mental health. Having an animal as company and as a responsibility gradually creates positivity within a person and subtly begins to treat their mental disorders. Where someone may have long been telling themselves that no one cared about them, the affection their animal has for them will change their thinking into a more positive self-talk.

It has even been found that caring for an animal can improve a person’s physical health. It has been documented that having the company of an animal, a creature that is naturally more light-hearted than a human, can improve a person’s blood pressure and circulation. There are even instances of a person’s cancer or heart condition being reduced when an animal enters the person’s life. The benefits of having a relationship with an animal are nothing short of miraculous.

Love for Animals

Having a love for animals is an innately human quality. Throughout history, humanity has had a relationship with animals, despite the separation of being different species. We have observed that it is not uncommon for interspecies friendships to form in the animal kingdom, and humans are no exception. Humans have a long history of keeping animals as pets and companions. Studies have revealed that keeping an animal as a companion can have numerous health benefits for people, including reduced blood pressure, lowered anxiety and longevity. For this reason, having a pet has become a medical and mental health recommendation to those who are struggling in these areas.

There are a number of reasons that animals are therapeutic to people. One of them is loyalty. There is no more loyal friend than an animal who is treated well. Some species are more loyal than others. Dogs, who have been aptly called “man’s best friend,” are often thought of as the most loyal kind of pet to own.

Animals are also very loving to their care-providers when they are treated well. To a pet, their owner is their entire world. They look to their owner for care, provision, protection and affection, and in return, they give their owner unconditional love. Some animals are even known to stay with their owners after they die. If their owner is not discovered, they lie down and die right next to them.

Animals are very entertaining creatures to spend time with. Most animals have an instinct to play, and interacting with them while they are playing can bring people immense joy and reward. People actually release more endorphins when they own an animal, which gives them a sense of purpose and a reason for living. All around, having an animal in your life, offers the opportunity for joy and companionship, which can help people recover from conditions like depression and anxiety. In some cases, a relationship with an animal has even proven to minimize physical disease symptoms.

Caring for Animals to End Addiction and Mental Disorders

For those who struggle with addiction and mental disorders, one piece of advice from mental health professionals is to own a pet, preferably a pet that is intelligent enough to be capable of affection. Love for a pet can be comparably strong to love for another person, and can fill a void for people who are prone to negative thinking. People who have not received treatment for their addiction or mental disorder should perhaps not own a pet until they receive intensive treatment, but once they are in recovery and practicing better lifestyle choices, owning a pet can be a very beneficial therapeutic element.

For those struggling with addiction, there is much to gain by caring for an animal. It is in an addict’s nature to struggle with intense cravings and relapsing, mismanaged priorities, and problems being available to those they maintain personal relationships with. Caring for an animal can reverse this behavior. Being responsible for an animal means following a schedule, time managing, money managing and taking control of the urge to fall back into the routine of addiction. It also means being willing to give of yourself emotionally, affectionately and energetically to see that the animal is happy and receives enough attention.

For those with mental disorders, the benefits are very similar. Mental disorders cause a lot of negative thought and behavioral patterns which require a great deal of grounding in order to beat. Again, treatment is always recommended as the first step in the recovery process, and once that is complete, having an animal friend or companion can be very beneficial. Where a mental disorder prompts people toward immense sadness, agitation, anger, stress, fear and a number of other negative mental states, a companion animal generates feelings of security, lightheartedness, calmness, joy, humor and affection. The good that an animal can do for a person who is in recovery from addiction or mental disorder is truly incredible.