Animal Therapy – What is it?
Animal therapy is about spending time with a pet to recover from a mental or physical health disorder or alleviate symptoms of the disorder. Cats, dogs, and horses are the most commonly used animal therapy pets. They come with their handlers who facilitate patient-animal interaction during therapy sessions.
Many clinical studies prove the positive influence of this therapy on the overall well-being of people suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, dementia, and many other conditions.
What are the benefits?
An animal therapy pet can have a magical effect on your mood. When you touch, hug, or stroke a loving animal, you feel stress and tension leave your body, resulting in the improvement of mood.
It is common for patients to feel isolated or lonely at times. Animal therapy can provide you with companionship and help you fill this void with the unconditional love of a pet.
Tackle stress and anxiety
Animals like dogs, horses, and cats can distract your mind with their playful antics. They can make you smile more and forget all the nerve-racking thoughts that are making you anxious. Research shows that a simple act of petting an animal can reduce your stress hormone (cortisol) levels and increase happy hormone (oxytocin) levels. This shows how animal assisted therapy can help people dealing with mental disorders manage their symptoms.
Reduce behavioral problems
An animal assisted therapy can also be effective in decreasing behavioral problems like aggression, self-control, etc., in both children and adults. Research conducted by the University of California students indicated that therapy dogs reduced behavioral issues and symptoms in ADHD patients. Another study showed that animal assisted therapy could improve behavioral problems in dementia patients.
Improve motor skills
Pets encourage care home residents to be more physically active. They motivate you to move around and perform different kinds of tasks to play with them. Walking with an animal therapy pet also makes exercise fun. Research indicates that animal therapy can help preschool children complete their motor skill tasks faster and more accurately.
What should I expect from a session?
When you register for a session, the therapist first asks you several questions to identify the mental, emotional, or physical issue that requires assistance.
Then a trained animal handler brings an animal therapy pet with whom you spend some time, either outdoor or indoor, depending on your therapist's instructions. The handler stays with you throughout the session to control the animal. You can touch the animal, play or walk with it according to your treatment’s ultimate goal.
The session will last an hour. Most people start noticing the positive effects of the therapy after having only one session.
This therapy has dozens of beneficial effects. Its success depends on setting attainable goals and working hard to meet those goals. Your therapist will examine your progress rate throughout the course. If your success rate is slower than expected, they may change your treatment plan.
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