Can Animal-Assisted Therapy Help Addicts?

Animal-Assisted Therapy
Image by University of the Fraser Valley via Flickr

It’s hard not to love animals, and many people experience a calming effect when petting a cat, dog or other furry friend. Human beings are by nature a pack animal, which is why co-existing with animals comes naturally to us. This is the reason there are so many benefits to caring for and spending time with an animal. Animals also have an extremely therapeutic benefit in addiction treatment, which is something that has been studied for quite some time.

Both Florence Nightingale and Sigmund Freud incorporated animals in therapy sessions and observed significant benefits and health improvements as a result. The principal behind animal-assisted therapy is that it’s not just about caring for a living creature, but also about entering into a reciprocal relationship where an addict is rewarded for their care with happiness and a general sense of wellbeing.

A Wide Variety of Animals Assist Addiction Treatment

Aside from the expected domestic animals, there are plenty of other species that have been used in substance abuse programs including horses, donkeys, llamas, dolphins and even wolves. Rehabilitation centers and recovery clinics are able to host all kinds of specially-trained animals on site and there are also specialist facilities providing equine therapy from permanent stables.

Animal-assisted addiction therapy sessions are led by a licensed therapist who is able to handle to particular species they are using in their program. Dogs and horses are the most common animals involved in addiction treatment and are usually the easiest for clinics and centers to host. More unusual animals, such as dolphins, are housed in specially adapted facilities for their needs and therapy sessions are scheduled by the location’s managers.

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