“Animals are inspirational. They don’t know how to lie. They are natural forces.”
― Charles Bukowski
Animal-Assisted Therapy: What it is, whom it’s for, and why it works, and types?
Not only are pets a source of support for their owners, but animals are also widely used in assisting in therapy and healing due to their positive effect on mental and physical health in patients. Animal therapy has been widely used and acknowledged since the late 20th century.
The first recognition of the animal-human connection dates back to the 1800s when Florence Nightingale believed that pets lowered their patients’ anxiety levels. Certification for the use of Animals began in the 1980s, paving the way for the two primary ways animals are now commonly integrated into therapy; pet therapy and animal-assisted therapy.
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Studies suggest that exposure to animals lowers the stress hormone epinephrine and norepinephrine, which improves pain management, reduces aggression, builds trust and empathy. When animal therapy is used to treat addiction, it introduces the patient to their nurturing nature.
Many suffering from addiction may also need to be shown or reminded what it means to have cared for. Interacting with animals allows individuals to step outside of their own needs and gives a new sense of purpose, building a fundamental understanding of a healthy and mutually nurturing relationship.
Animal-assisted therapies have commonly been known to treat the following successfully, meet the team:
- Heart disease
- Developmental disorders
- Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia
- Emotional and behavioral disorders
- Chronic pain
- Autism spectrum disorders Studies show that interaction with Animals increases Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone.
The increased levels of Oxytocin as a result of interaction with animals has shown to have a positive effect upon:
- Interpersonal relations
- Stress and Blood Pressure
- Anxiety and Fear
- Cardiovascular diseases How to Know if Animal-Assisted Therapy Is the Right Choice What Animals Offer
- They share a deep, genetic bond with us.
Our evolutionary survival has depended on our noticing them and responding to them:
• Immediate and honest feedback without any judgment or criticism to our actions or mood
• Breaking down barriers- spurring interactions and helping us to interact, easing the way forward for those who may have difficulty engaging in social situations
- The bridge to a higher level of emotional frequency, thoughts, and actions
- To focus on something other than our problems and subsequently to enable us to step away, even momentarily, from our sometimes all-consuming issues
- Responsibility and self-control – responsibility for the care of an animal not only shows us how to meet others’ needs, but it also illustrates the joy of being of service and dependability.
Even if we have a history of bad choices in our past, seeing ourselves in the eyes of an un-judgemental animal allows us to think; maybe it’s not so hopeless.