The affection a pet can hold for its owner can be deep, profound, and almost bottomless. It’s a small wonder intelligent, affectionate breeds are being trained to serve as therapy animals for addicts and the mentally ill, who not only need a dog to help them navigate through difficult situations but want a genuine canine friend as well.
In addition, because addicts and the mentally ill are subjected to frequent social stigma and discrimination, it’s important for them to have a companion animal who does not judge them but loves them for exactly who they are.
Moreover, owning such an animal teaches them discipline and cultivates a desire to get out and about more, if only to show the world to their dog.
Arranging for Pet Therapy
Multiple studies have proven the emotional and physical benefits to raising a pet, particularly one trained to respond to the needs of someone with a mental health condition.
However, when selecting a therapy animal to help treat a recovering addict, the addict must be paired with an animal of a particular kind of personality that suits the addict’s needs.
Typically, the handler of the trained therapy animal matches the addict to the dog and keeps tabs on how the patient-pet relationship is developing as the addict is seeking treatment at the treatment center, care home, or hospital.
The recovering addict is usually made to walk, play, feed, and groom the therapy dog, among other activities, which uplifts the addict’s spirits, naturally.
Animal Therapy Benefits for Addicts
People hooked on alcohol or drugs can become self-absorbed.
But by having them continually engage with a canine companion, they automatically begin to put the canine first in many areas of life.
This teaches them to think of others first and to even develop stronger social skills with their treatment counselors and peers.
Moreover, the therapists helping the addict get sober gain keener insights into the self-esteem issues of the addict, as the latter increasingly opens up in therapy while in the presence of a companion animal.
Therapeutic dogs are known to defuse tension during difficult therapy sessions and provide support when the addict is finding it hard to open up about a past transgression.
Tips for First-Time Owners of a Therapy Animal
Preparing Yourself for the First Meet and Greet
Whether you’ll be taking a trained psychiatric animal home with you or embarking on animal-assisted treatment at a specialized center, you want to be prepared for your first meeting with your matched canine.
Doing so will require you to ready your home so that it’s friendly to pets.
First, clean up your clutter, pack away the electrical cables, and buy dog toys to make the dog feel at home.
The idea here is to build the first foundational layer of trust in a relationship that is set to become hugely beneficial for the two of you.
Indeed, your companion animal trusts you implicitly to care for her every need. In return, you regain the self-confidence that you can not only care for yourself, but for another.
Set Up an Exercise Routine With Your New Canine Friend
Consider bicycling or jogging alongside your therapy animal so that the joint exercise helps keep both your constitutions healthy and lean.
Exercise has been proven to diminish addiction cravings, promote a deeper, more restorative sleep, and keep obsessive thoughts about drugs and alcohol at bay.
It might be daunting at first to contemplate taking care of a trained companion animal when you’re still battling addiction or taking medication for a psychiatric illness.
However, doing so will teach you to find ways to please your pet and take care of her, as she constantly seeks to please you and take care of you.
With time and patience, the highly symbiotic relationship should cause both of you to ultimately flourish.
Monday 13th of November 2017
I'd love to own one, be great for my m. s. And fibromyalgia too.
Sunday 12th of November 2017
Now that's awesome, I had no idea this was possible.
Tuesday 7th of November 2017
You absolutely can use a therapy animal even if you don't suffer from mental illness or addiction, just as some people go to therapy even if they don't have those issues as well. Great article.
Sunday 5th of November 2017
Pets have so much to offer and having an animal in ones life can offer so much. I have never not had a pet and I know how much they have helped me in tough times.