Importance of Animal Therapy in Addictions Treatment

Importance of Animal Therapy in Addictions Treatment

Trained dogs or other animals have been used in animal-assisted therapeutic settings for some time. The aim is to help human beings with specific health conditions. Current evidence suggests people with cancer, serious life threatening conditions or even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from the use of animals in a structured therapeutic environment. Animals help people with substance abuse issues and addiction by strengthening the ability of therapists to connect with individuals in treatment and support growth.


The Basics

Pet therapy is a more broad category under which animal-assisted therapy falls under. Animal interactions within a therapeutic setting support therapists or doctors in achieving concrete goals for people affected by addictions, substance abuse or other health conditions. Animals used in this type of therapy receive instruction on interacting with humans in a range of circumstances. Not all animals can be used in this capacity and trainers are highly selective of what animals are chosen to be most helpful. Prior to a session starting, an individual with addiction may receive an explanation from a therapist or doctor about what will happen. Upon receiving permission, the individual will have a chance to interact with the animal with the doctor and animal handler present.


Therapeutic Alliance

A therapeutic alliance is a bond which forms between therapists and individuals with addiction. Therapists work to establish and sustain positive therapeutic interaction by doing things which help the individual with addiction in a warm, respectful and comfortable environment. Trust is the main factor in being able to use animals effectively in a therapeutic setting.


Substance Treatment

When compared with other participants who did not interact with a therapy dog as part of treatment, it was discovered individuals who did use the dog had a generally more favorable perspective on the relationship with the doctor. People affected by meth addiction or cannabis addiction seemed to benefit highly from the interaction of pets in addiction treatment. The published study noted several groups of people who owned pets also had an improved perspective on therapeutic outcomes than those who did not use animals in therapy.


Substance abuse dependence and addiction are particularly challenging to treat using animals as it must be done in a therapeutic setting to see the most benefit. It is beneficial to people who desire the opportunity to engage with animals in treatment to find out if the inpatient or outpatient program being used will provide this opportunity. Finding a reputable program is the key to receiving maximum benefit from such a program.


The Villa provides resources and information regarding addictions recovery. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment options or want to know how to support a loved one with addictions, call us to find out how we can get you started on the journey.