Therapy Profiles: What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

The Therapeutic Value of Animals

Holistic drug treatment provides those who are struggling with substance use disorders with different options to help them understand and move past their addiction. Animal-assisted therapy and other programs that such treatment centers provide not only address the physical aspects of addiction, they also help address the psychological and spiritual aspects of the disease.

When the mind, body, and spirit are aligned, those new in recovery discover harmony and balance in their lives, and lifelong recovery becomes a reality. One of the most effective–and most popular–holistic therapies that are offered is animal-assisted therapy.

A woman holds her face close to a brown horse, to show the concept of animal-assisted therapy for addiction treatment

What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is extremely versatile and can be applied to a variety of treatment situations. In drug treatment, this form of therapy is utilized by treatment staff to help clients rebuild relationship and nurture trust. With animal-based treatment programs, clients will be led through a series of exercises in which clients interact with animals and will take part in their care and well-being. The ultimate goal of animal therapy in drug treatment is to help the addict rediscover the beauty of their inner selves.

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The Reasons Why Animal-Assisted Therapies Work

When people have been addicted to drugs and alcohol for a prolonged period of time, it can diminish a person’s ability to look beyond themselves and focus on the needs of the family, friends and other acquaintances. As a result, the addicts lack the necessary skills to form and maintain meaningful relationships with others. Animals are empathetic creatures and can mirror what we feel, and when we work with animals in a therapeutic setting we begin to uncover deeper meaning and purpose in our lives.

Animal-assisted addiction treatment therapy and equine therapy are effective approaches used in some treatment centers today to help with addiction and alcoholism. Equine therapy is commonly referred to as horse therapy, it is a form of therapy that allows struggling addicts and alcoholics to have contact with horses. Animal-assisted therapy and other adventure therapies will allow clients and patients to have interactions with various types of animals, including cats dogs, and birds. These interactions between patients and horses involve things like feeding, petting and grooming.

Certifications and Training For Equine and Animal-Assistive Therapists

Of course, all of these interactions are supervised by a professional horse handler, to help guarantee the safety of the client as well as a mental health professional.  While the activity is taking place and after the equine therapy session has been completed, the therapist can interact with the patient and observe their actions and behaviors. This allows the therapist to evaluate their behavior changes and help treat the client correctly.

Equine therapy and animal-assisted therapy help the client to develop new skills and new attributes that can be applied to daily life. This includes new skills things like self-control, responsibility, problem-solving skills, self-confidence, accountability, and self-control. Equine therapy and animal-assisted therapy will give a nice change in pace and atmosphere as compared to what a normal day in a rehab is like.

Animal-assisted therapy is the discipline of using animals as a way to create positive experiences in order to encourage mental and emotional growth in the client. The animals will provide a great unique way for struggling addicts and alcoholics to get out of their shells, open up and have new experiences. Therapists will use these sessions to help teach the clients lessons on how the animals react to different situations, they will then use those reactions and help the client apply those lessons into their daily life.

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What are the Benefits of Animal Assisted Addiction Treatment Therapy?

Studies have been done on the various benefits of equine therapy and animal-assisted therapy. When it is used properly and is being taught by a licensed therapist, there are many positive things that can be learned from one of these therapy sessions. One of the impressive and useful benefits of this therapy is the ability to lower anxiety levels and stress levels in clients.  Clients will see that they have better impulse control.  Learning how to control themselves from making impulsive decisions the chances of them relapsing are going to greatly decrease.

During therapy sessions, the client will have to show a certain level of dominance and assertiveness over the animals to establish their role correctly. They can take these skills and apply them in their daily life, by becoming more assertive they will get a higher level of self-confidence.

Animal-assisted addiction treatment therapy and equine therapy have both been proven to help decrease stress levels in those who completed sessions with a trained and licensed therapist. Giving clients benefits that are comparable to forms of meditation. When the client takes control of the horse, the horse is giving their trust to the client. This mutual respect will help build trust levels in the client and can benefit them far beyond the equine therapy session. The same goes with other animals, the client must trust the animal and the animal must trust the client. Decreased levels of isolation, self-acceptance, confidence, social skills, the ability to set healthy and safe boundaries, self-efficacy, self-concept, communication skills, perspective and higher levels of spirituality.

The Unexpected Positives of Interacting with Animals

The benefits of animal-assisted therapy are attributed to the natural instincts of animals. Animals do not have any expectations from the client.  They will not be judgmental and they don’t expect something special when interacting with clients. The animals used in equine therapy and animal-assisted therapy easily display similar attitudes and behaviors of the clients with whom they are working. Equine therapy usually has various different things in terms of horse care as well as riding exercises.

Grooming procedures, how to properly saddle the horse, different forms of positive reinforcement, and all the basic equitation. The types of interactions and classes with animal-assisted therapy will vary depending on what animal is being used. Safety is always the number one priority for all participants, this includes the safety of the client, the therapist, and the animal. It is common for clients to wear helmets and other protective gear when they are riding the horse to make sure they are safe if they were to fall.

These programs are for both the young and the old, adults teens and the elderly can all benefit from animal-assisted therapy. Some of the people who participate are doing so to help with their behavior disorders or their mood disorders. Others are getting benefits for their compulsive gambling, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, sex addiction,  learning differences, ADD/ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, grief/loss, trauma; it has even been used to help with the treatment of people struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism.

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Interested in Animal or Equine Therapy?

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction and would like to learn about equine therapy and animal-assisted therapy that is offered at a drug & alcohol rehab, call at 1-877-959-7271 today.

A woman receives a horse hug, as part of equine therapy in addiction treatment

What Types Of Animal Therapy are Available in Drug Treatment?

In holistic drug treatment, there are two main types of animal therapy that can be utilized by treatment staff: equine therapy and animal/pet therapy. While the overall goals are the same, both types of animal therapy have some subtle differences as far as how the treatment is approached. It is important to take a closer look at both types of animal-assisted therapy to see how each helps the addict overcome addiction and uncover their true, nurturing selves.

Equine Therapy

Commonly known as horse therapy, equine therapy allows clients to work with horses on a daily basis. With the combination of regular exercises and care and the inherently gentle nature of the horses themselves, equine therapy helps those new in recovery restore and rebuild their mind and spirit which were damaged in their active drug addiction. It is believed when individuals work with horses and start to form bonds with them, the animal is a “blank slate” and has no preconceived notions about the recovering addict.

In holistic drug treatment, equine therapy is seen as an important tool in the addiction recovery process. This type of therapy is extremely effective in re-teaching responsibility and brings about introspective thoughts and behaviors in the addict. As mentioned earlier, individuals who take part in this form of animal-assisted therapy will benefit greatly from the new sense of responsibility and empowerment. Additionally–and equally as important–equine therapy replaces drug use with an activity is that more positive and healthy.

During the drug rehabilitation process, those who struggle with the addiction simply need something to help take their mind off the oftentimes stressful world of drug treatment. Equine therapy provides a soothing, fulfilling way to calm oneself and put the focus onto something else.

Pet Therapy

The other form of animal-assisted therapy that can help clients heal is pet therapy. Common types of animals that can use utilized in this form of animal therapy are dogs, cats, and even birds. As with equine therapy, pet therapy involves clients working with various animals in a set of guided exercises which revolve around the general care and overall maintenance of a pet’s overall health and well-being. The obvious benefits of pet therapy include exercise, companionship, and unconditional loyalty. Additionally, this type of animal therapy offers patients the warmth, familiarity, and a benign and comforting reminder of their life before rehab.

Much like equine therapy, patients can reacquaint themselves with the important concepts of selflessness and nurturing that was lost during their time in active addiction. By integrating pets into the structure of addiction treatment, it makes those new in recovery responsible for a life other than their own. There are a growing number of treatment centers that are allowing those in recovery who are pet owners to bring their pets into a treatment setting.

Perhaps the Greatest Benefit of Animal-Assisted Therapy

With all the benefits that animal-assisted therapy provides the client in the recovery process, perhaps the biggest benefit of this form of therapy centers of the animals themselves. Many pets that are used in animal therapy are adopted out of shelters and have been trained to become therapy animals. In the case of the horses that are used in this type of therapy, they are often retired thoroughbreds or workhorses who are given the chance to do positive work in their later years. In many ways, the animals used in this therapy may get the same benefits as those in recovery.

Experience the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Throughout the ages, pets and other animals have provided humans with companionship and they give us a sense of calm, safety and security. Through Find Addiction Rehabs you can locate an Animal-Assisted Therapy program that will be able to help you work through your anxiety, loneliness, depression, and guilt and come to rediscover the nurturer inside of you.

Whether in one-on-one or group settings, the centers that employ animal-assisted therapy programs are effective, proven to work, and led by a team of experienced and compassionate treatment staff. Call Find Addiction Rehabs today to discover the best options for your treatment and find out how animal therapy can lead to a healthier and happier you.

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