The usage of animals as a therapeutic aide has become more common, as people find their benefits during the recovery process. Whether you are recovering from an addiction or a mental health issue, therapy animals can play a role in recovery. From teaching boundaries and life skills to creating a safe space, animals have distinct emotional and physical advantages when used in addition to therapy. When used properly, they can even create a lasting relationship and provide constant support regardless of the phase of recovery or place in life.
Animals Come in All Shapes and Sizes
When thinking about therapy animals, dogs are usually the first things that come to mind. Dogs provide many services, from assisting disabled people to offering therapeutic support. However, this kind of therapy is not limited to dogs. Such therapeutic techniques can also use cats, birds, and horses, depending on the needs of the person and their limitations.
Using animals in therapy comes with a few complications, such as having to address allergies or fears. When considering animal-inclusive treatment, consider what kinds of animals will be most beneficial. Evaluate your living environment and your physical ability to care for the animal in question. If you are unable to care for your therapy animal, some facilities offer animal-inclusive programs.
Emotional Benefits of Using a Support Animal
Using an animal as a therapeutic tool is more than just having something cute around all the time. Having a therapy animal requires you to set a specific goal, but the payoffs can be astronomical. Your animal can lead you to a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.
A support animal can help you practice finding your voice. During the recovery process, it can be challenging to find the right way to say things. There can be a barrier of shame, guilt, or isolation that keeps you silent during certain parts of your recovery. Animals create a safe space where you can express yourself without watching your words or worrying about how someone may react. Merely expressing a topic can be empowering on its own. More importantly, it can be a step toward taking control of your recovery and future. It can also strengthen your voice, as you will have to teach and implement commands. This practice will teach discipline, confidence, and assertiveness.
Recovering people may have lingering guilt or shame about their past actions and decisions. However, an animal isn’t concerned about those things. Instead, they care only about how you are behaving now. This can provide that ever-elusive sense of hope necessary for a successful recovery. Finally, you can begin to let go of your past and make plans for a positive future.
Lastly, responsibility is a crucial aspect of using an animal during therapy. Teaching responsibility through caretaking, cleaning, and feeding is a necessary life skill that will transcend the animal and move into all other aspects of your life.
Physical Benefits of Using a Support Animal
Staying physical during recovery is just as important as maintaining a healthy mental state. Animals provide a necessary degree of physical activity. This can take place in the form of walking your dog or riding horses. As an extra boon, most of this physical activity will need to take place outdoors, motivating you to get outside and enjoy a bit of fresh air. While this seems straightforward at first, it can become daunting.
For example, you may have to find a local dog park for the first time. This experience will broaden your horizons and become an outlet for your social skills, all with a supportive animal by your side. Getting outdoors and staying active is a crucial part of recovery. A support animal can make the experience more manageable.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders, Alta Centers are here to help. By championing the need for social interactions and a modern, inclusive take on both the detox and recovery phases of your journey, Alta Centers is an open and inclusive space to experience one’s own emotions, difficulties, and successes. Having a community of professionals and patients working to establish a positive outlook on recovery helps you gain a needed sense of inclusion. For more information on their programs, or to set up an intake appointment for their detox services, contact Alta Centers today at (888) 202-2583.