Does Pet Therapy in Addiction Treatment Work?

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These days, it is not rare to read a touching story on the internet about therapy dogs that help patients in the hospital recover more quickly, a specially-trained PTSD horse alleviating the symptoms of a child with Attention-Deficit Disorder, or a dog trained to sense the on-coming seizures of its owner suffering from epilepsy. But are there research statistics on animal-assisted therapy, and does it actually work? And if so, how?

The good news is there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting pet therapy is quantifiably helpful for individuals suffering from mental illness, such as anxiety and depression, as well as those in addiction treatment and recovery. By using various methods and types of therapy animals, therapists are able to target certain areas of concern or growth through particular exercises. For example, in equine therapy, individuals with anger or violent behavior will quickly learn that horses do not respond to a hostile approach. The key is to walk alongside the animal and learn to work with them in mutual respect and gentleness.

The major problem with pet therapy research is studies are overall methodologically inconsistent. In other words, the studies are not up to typical research standards, creating issues with accuracy in determining the results. Though the statistics may not be consistent across the board, nearly every trial in assessing pet therapy shows significant improvements to a number of factors with the patient’s health.

Specifically in pet therapy in addiction rehabilitation, individuals experienced an improvement of social interaction and communication skills, a confidence boost, less anxiety and depression symptoms, and reduced feelings associated with low mood, such as loneliness, anger, and insecurity. Further, they reported it was easier to have a more positive outlook, feel independent, in control, and self-supportive.

If you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, call us today at (888) 507-1355. Our trained treatment specialists offer free, confidential addiction assessments to determine the best path to health and wholeness for you.