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Everything You Need to Know About Animal Assisted Therapy

By Colleen Williams
published: January 18, 2019 - updated: November 20, 2019 • 3 min. read
what to know about assistant dogs

what to know about assistant dogs
We live in a time that is abundant with new technologies and some say we are trapped inside our phones, computers, and televisions, resulting in us becoming more lonely and isolated than ever. Psychologists have recently begun to hone in on that loss of human connection, and have begun to integrate real living things into therapy – animals!

So what are the ways in which therapy animals can help assist in achieving better outcomes in all sorts of treatment? Let’s find out.

Humans and Animals: A Beneficial Relationship

Ever since the earliest humans began to domesticate animals, we’ve had a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship with our pets. Whereas in ancient times dogs received food scraps in reward for protecting us, these days our pets are pampered as a reward for being our  supporters and friends, and instilling in us a sense of wellbeing.

Seriously, have you ever tried not smiling when looking at a cute dog? Impossible.

How Animals Work as a Therapy Aid

There are scientific reasons as to why animals are a popular option for human therapy—animals help us to feel better emotionally, and can even help us to heal from diseases more efficiently. Researchers have discovered that psycho-social factors can strongly determine the recovery of a patient from certain diseases such as cardiovascular issues.

The stress lowering effects can be crucial in regards to the recovery or reprieve from many illnesses and diseases, but the motivation a pet provides is just as important. Animals seem to have a positive effect on those recovering from illnesses—both physical and mental—due to the fact that they provide focus for patients which helps them to want to recover. Those patients who want to get better end up having a more positive prognosis, as they are able to manage their illness more efficiently. A positive mindset can have a huge impact on recovery.

Positive Mindset: Effect on Recovery

The positive mindset phenomenon brought on by therapy animals is due to the effect that animals have on our attitude. When we interact with animals or pets, we focus on something outside of our own worries and this can develop a more positive mindset that helps us to overcome physical or mental illness.

This positive mindset can have a huge impact on recovery, with studies showing that those who look at things from a positive perspective have a higher rate of managing and beating illnesses, compared to their negative counterparts.

Conditions That Therapy Animals Are Used For

Therapy animals have proved useful in treating both physical health problems and mental health problems for many individuals. Therapy animals have proved that they are useful for both types of illness (physical and mental), showing that pets and therapy animals all around have an undeniably positive effect on humans that cannot be ignored.

Therapy Animals for Physical Health Problems

Therapy animals have been employed in many areas of health care to assist patients in healing their illnesses. Practitioners have noticed positive changes in their patients using therapy animals in a number of areas, leading the practice of prescribing therapy animals to grow in popularity and to an uptake in a number of medical areas.

Some of the most popular areas for use of therapy animals are for those who are battling physical ailments such as:

  • Cardiovascular health issues
  • Those persons with physical disabilities or differently abled
  • Those undergoing cancer treatment
  • Dementia treatment

Therapy Animals for Mental Health Problems

Therapy animals are a golden discovery for therapists treating mental health issues. While we’ve always known instinctively that pets make us feel better, studies are now beginning to be published that show undeniable evidence of the positive impact that pets can have on our lives.

Therapy animals are being prescribed for a number of mental health conditions, including:

  • Generalized anxiety and social anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Addiction issues

One particular example of a therapy animal used for mental health support is for those with PTSD. Those with PTSD often experience intense and uncontrollable emotions fueling panic attacks due to traumatic experiences, which can affect them severely in their day-to-day lives.

Therapy pets can help those suffering with this condition to live fuller lives through a number of benefits. Pets can help to act as grounding presence for PTSD sufferers by reassuring them and providing a sense of security.

Accessing Therapy Animals

If you think that you could benefit from a therapy animal, you may be wondering how can you can adopt one. Therapy animals can be “prescribed” as part of your treatment plan by your therapist or doctor. If you or a loved one are dealing with a physical illness, inquire at your hospital to see whether they assist with the provision of therapy animals as part of their treatment.

If you’re interested in therapy animals for yourself or a friend, check out CertaPet’s therapy dog training tips. 

This content provided by CertaPet. CertaPet is an online platform that connects patients, who are seeking recommendation letters for emotional support animals, with Licensed Mental Health Professionals who are familiar with the benefits that animal companionship can have on a person’s emotional and mental well-being.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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