When it comes to treating the variety of mental disorders that human beings face, talking the issues out with another person is the tried and true method of healthy recovery. However, for many in recovery, receiving support and advice from their family or a best friend may not be enough, but having the companionship of a four-legged best friend may be what it takes to speed up the healing process.
Animal-assisted therapy, also known as AAT or pet therapy, is a practice that brings people and animals together to improve the human’s social, emotional and cognitive functioning. Many observations and examinations have discovered that these types of interactions can foster restorative outcomes. Although a range of different animals and pets are utilized for this type of training and treatment, the most popular forms include canine, equine and dolphin therapy.
One of the most common species to be utilized for therapy is dogs. This is largely due to the animal’s long and intertwined history of coexisting with humans. Through decades of adaptation and gradual domestication, canines have cemented themselves within people’s social system. Throughout the 20th century, these animals were introduced as a form of therapy to help those recovering from their injuries at war wards and hospitals. Currently, studies have shown that therapy dogs can help improve serious dysfunctions in the mind, such as learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease. A key aspect of canine therapy generates a noticeable boost in prosocial behavior, which is essential in helping people adapt in their day-to-day functioning with these types of disorders. Research has also shown a strong link between dog exposure and stress relief, even leading many health care, work and school settings to allow dogs on the premises sporadically.
Equine therapy refers to the use of horses to aid those in recovery. This wild creature also has an established relationship with humans, as the animal’s sole purpose back in the day was transportation. The bond between horses and humans became stronger as the two beings would ride together. Modern therapy involves learning how to communicate and lead a horse, as well as many other skills depending on one’s level of mental capacity and comfort with the animal. Research has shown that this therapy allows patients to develop self-awareness, better relationships and non-verbal communication skills that can improve many mental conditions, from anxiety and mood disorders to other psychiatric illnesses and behavioral difficulties.
Not only can humans relate to land-loving animals, but they can find solace and support with creatures of the sea as well. The most ideal type in this regard is dolphin therapy. Dolphins have built a reputation of holding an impressive level of intelligence. This pool of knowledge includes recognizing various social cues. Dolphins are adept at reading the body language of human beings. In fact, some of the first studies detailing the service’s effect were with autistic children who benefited from dolphin interactions. Supporters also claim that dolphin assisted therapy, also known as DAT, can “effectively improve language, behavior, cognitive processing, attention, motivation to learn and certain medical conditions.” A safer and more cost-efficient alternative can be aquatic therapy, without the presence of animals, as some studies show the experience can improve concentration, inspire recreation and strengthen quality of life.
Sovereign Health of California advocates animal therapy; its treatment facilities incorporate equine therapy to give clients an alternative to normal human relations. In other circumstances, professional help from qualified, licensed clinicians is necessary to achieve a more stable life. If someone you know has an incapacitating or destructive mental disorder or addiction, Sovereign can help. Contact a representative online via live chat or call (866) 819-0427 to get more information.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer