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Animal Assisted Therapy

Connecting With An Animal Can Bring A Smile And Warm Memories To Those Who Feel Ill, Lonely Or Neglected
It takes only 20 minutes with a Therapy Dog for health inducing and social inducing hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins to increase.

For 12 centuries success in the use of animals in therapy has been reported. Though we suspect people have been using animal assisted therapy since animals were first domesticated.


Learn how to better communicate with people by talking to the animal

Animal-assisted therapy is where the therapy sessions are designed to help a patient achieve specific goals therapeutic and wellness goals

Animal Assisted Therapy In Drug Rehabilitation Treatment

Connecting With An Animal Can Bring A Smile And Warm Memories To Those Who Feel Ill, Lonely Or Neglected

Therapy Animals Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Their Most Important Characteristic Is Not Their Species, Breed Or Appearance, But Their Temperament. They Are Friendly, Patient, Confident, Gentle, And At Ease With Strangers.

Only if we can love an animal can we experience selfless compassion.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Is Where The Therapy Sessions Are Designed To Help A Patient Achieve Specific Goals Therapeutic And Wellness Goals,

such as increased mobility or improved memory. The sessions are documented by the health professional to record activity and progress. Therapeutic examples of areas where animal-assisted therapy is used to help individuals improve in terms of their well-being: Verbal and Physical interactions with others (self-expression, cooperation); Motor skills; Mobility and Balance; Exercise; Mental Skills (memory, concentration, problem solving); Anxiety; Depression (grieving) and Trust. Interaction with therapy animals has been shown to lower anxiety and motivate participation. In physical therapy, individuals may be motivated to brush the animal or walk with them. In mental therapy, the animal is seen as a friend and ally, thus presenting a safe atmosphere for sharing. Animal assisted therapy is used in the treatment of people with physical, emotional, or social problems, using purposeful activity to help them overcome or learn to deal with their challenges.


Please enquire for cost
  • Morning and afternoon walks with selected dog
  • Taking responsibility for brushing and grooming every second day
  • Participating in the Saturday Park run at the Botanical Gardens with the dog at least three times during the 6 week period
  • Hiking on the beach with the selected dog
  • Would be able to take dog with and be the handler during an endurance walk
  • Receive one obedience training session from a Dog Trainer
  • One outreach to the SPCA in order to give back
  • An outing to the Wolf Sanctuary in Knysna

How Do Pets Help With Healing In Addiction Rehab?

Pets And Addiction Treatment

Animal ownership can provide immeasurable therapeutic value to addiction recovery patients. Practically every pet owner has experienced the stress-relieving benefits of a life with their animal friends: the unconditional love they provide when it seems like you’re at odds with the entire world; the exercise benefits you both get from play-time; the constant companionship, etc. Minnesota House has blended pets and addiction treatment to develop a one-of-a-kind recovery program where animal lovers can lean on their non-human friends for strength and support.

How Does Minnesota House Combine Pets and Addiction Treatment?

Animal Assisted Therapy Is A Relatively New Concept Within Drug Rehabilitation Centres. Minnesota is on the cutting edge of innovative, ground breaking holistic therapies to treat drug addiction and co-occurring disorders associated with addiction. For more information about the international use of AAT see the following sites.

PetPartners (www.petpartners.org)

Pet Partners is a leading international resource for the human-animal bond and its relationship to improving human health. Their web site provides information on animal-assisted therapy, a wide variety of articles on the health benefits for different groups of people, volunteer opportunities and training information.

Therapet Animal Assisted Therapy Foundation (therapet.com)

This non-profit organization works to facilitate the use of animals in the healing and rehabilitation of acute and chronically ill individuals. The web site discusses the nature and benefits of animal-assisted therapy, their training programs and seminars, and books and videos on the topic. This innovative therapy allows clients to have their pets with them during treatment to give them that same sense of warmth and comfort many pet owners experience when they see their animals at the end of a long and arduous day. Most patients who select this program are overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of being able to have their animals with them during this challenging process. The therapy works for most dependency problems-pets and drug rehab, as well as pets and alcohol rehab are proven combinations in helping clients who are animal lovers to recover. By the very nature of their presence during treatment, pets become part of the treatment themselves.

Benefits Of Pet Companionship And Addiction Treatment

In addition to the immediate physical and emotional benefits, such as exercise, companionship, and unconditional loyalty, this program also affords patents warmth, familiarity, and a benign and comforting reminder of their life before rehab. By giving themselves the task of caring for something, patients can reacquaint themselves with the concepts of selflessness and nurturing. Integrating pets and addiction treatment goes beyond giving patients their own separate living space to maintain, and makes them responsible for a life other than their own.

The Proven Results Of Combining Pets And Addiction Treatment

Numerous addiction studies suggest that spending time with a pet can be more beneficial than even opening up to a family member or loved one. This makes sense given how guarded patients with addictions or mental disorders tend to be. They find in their animal, a completely non-judgemental sounding board for their fears, complaints, reservations and troubles. Overall the combination of pets and addiction treatment has been dramatically underutilized, despite its numerous benefits and proven results. Animals have no hidden agenda related to your recovery and no manipulative inclinations; just the biological instinct to bond with their owners and offer support and connection that humans can find literally nowhere else. Not many residential treatment centres integrate pets and addiction treatment due to licensing issues and logistical difficulties. Minnesota House’s commitment to this program is just another example of our above-and-beyond approach to treatment. As many pet owners can attest, there are numerous benefits of animal companionship. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can reduce stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. Pets can also decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, according to the CDC. Given these health benefits, it’s no surprise that animals, including dogs, cats, horses, dolphins and rabbits, are used in many forms of therapy today. Service animals can assist people who have visual and hearing disabilities, mental illness, autism, seizures and other health conditions. When it comes to addiction recovery, animal-assisted therapies are becoming more common and more effective than ever.

Many Reputable Centres Across The Globe Use Pet Therapy

While it’s not a new form of therapy for substance use disorders, animal-assisted therapy has grown in popularity in recent years. Many well-known, established facilities offer pet therapy programs, including:

  • Betty Ford Center. Specialises in therapy with dogs, known as canine therapy.
  • Hazelden. Offers equine therapy, or therapy with horses.
  • Promises. Offers wolfdog therapy.
  • Morningside Recovery. Allows patients to bring their pets with them for extra support and comfort.

With such well-documented, positive results, animal-assisted therapy will likely become a much more common treatment for addictions in the coming years. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows the healing power of animals. Having a pet makes you feel needed and loved. A pet provides you with a responsibility outside yourself. Animals lower your blood pressure, relax you and help you cope with stress. It should come as little surprise to hear that pets can be great partners in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Rehab statistics regarding pets as part of treatment are minimal, but as animal therapy becomes more popular, they are sure to show that pets are a positive part of addiction treatment.

Animals In Rehab? See The Benefits Now!

Using animals in therapy isn’t a new concept, but it hasn’t been applied to addiction treatment for very long. Therapy animals (which are most often dogs but can also include cats, horses and other animals) are often used in situations and settings where people need comfort. Nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and various types of residential homes allow certified therapy animals to be brought in to bring comfort, stress relief and a distraction to patients and residents. Drug rehab statistics do not have much to say about animal therapy playing a role in treatment.

This is changing, though, as facilities and caregivers realise just how beneficial animals can be to any healing process, including addiction treatment.


Benefits Of Pet-Therapy

Spending time with and petting an animal has many benefits, including:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety
  • A stabilised mood
  • Better anger management
  • Improved self-esteem and lower tension and stress
  • Stabilised and Improve social skills by learning gentle ways to communicate and handle the animal, such as feeding and grooming.
  • Brighten affect, mood, pleasure and affection while playing with the animal
  • Reduce abusive behaviour and learn appropriate touch
  • Improve ability to express feelings by identifying how an animal might feel in a certain situation and/or recalling a client’s history with pets (sharing stories of grief or funny events)
  • Reduce anxiety and fear by forming a bond of love and comfort with the animal
  • Learn how to better communicate with people by talking to the animal
  • Develop a cooperative plan to accomplish something with the animal
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety
  • Increased beta-endorphin levels (a hormone produced by the brain and nervous system that reduces pain)
  • Improved social functioning
  • Increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-esteem
  • Improved willingness to be involved in a therapeutic program or group activity
  • Increased trust, empathy and teamwork
  • Greater self-control
  • Decreased need for medication
  • Mental benefits
  • Decrease in stress and anxiety, including that from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Decrease in depression
  • Decrease in loneliness and feelings of isolation
  • Decrease in aggressive behaviours
  • Increase in feeling of acceptance, and in-turn the ability to accept social and emotional support
  • Increase in socialisation with an outward focus, including opportunities for laughter and a sense of happiness and well-being
  • Increase in mental stimulation, attention skills, and verbal interactions
  • Increase in spirit and self-esteem, enabling a patient to further participate in mental and physical therapy and to be more involved in group activities
  • Physical Benefits
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Decrease in heart rate
  • Decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increase in hormones associated with health and a feeling of well-being, including beta-endorphin, beta-phenylethylamine, dopamine, oxytocin, prolactin and serotonin
  • Increase in level of fitness by providing stimulus for exercise, with improvement in activities in which they were limited
  • Improvement in fine motor skills, standing balance, wheelchair and other physical skills

All of these benefits can help an addict in recovery heal and can also reduce the risk of having a relapse. Rehab facilities are using animal-assisted therapy more and more in treatment for addiction. Field trips to visit therapy dogs are becoming more common and are great ways to help addicts feel better. Some enlightened locations that realise just how important pets are in people’s lives. If you’re wondering what happens in drug rehab and you’re nervous about going in for a residential stay, knowing that animals will be a part of the program can be a big relief. Animals bring comfort and a feeling of unconditional love and loyalty. They won’t judge you and will make you feel better just by letting you pet them. You can benefit a considerable amount from spending time with the dogs and other animals trained to work as animal therapists.

Healing With Animals Is Possible!

Animal-assisted therapy is becoming more and more popular in situations where people need comfort including addiction treatment centres, nursing homes, and hospitals. There are a number of benefits that people gain when spending time with animals that shows how beneficial animals can be during addiction treatment or any other healing process.

Animal Assisted Therapy At Minnesota House Treatment Centre

Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, horses, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs and birds can all be used in therapy animal work. Therapy animals are best known for bringing affection, comfort and happiness to people in confined living situations, whether they are in a hospital for a short stay or living in an assisted living home. Connecting with an animal, petting or cuddling with it, can bring a smile and warm memories to those who feel ill, lonely or neglected. Research has shown that contact with a therapy animal helps improve a patient’s physical, mental, emotional and social state, which in turn helps them to effectively engage and participate in the process of their treatment and recovery. Therapy animals come in all shapes and sizes, and their most important characteristic is not their species, breed or appearance, but their temperament. They are friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease with strangers. They provide unconditional acceptance and never fail to put smiles on the peoples’ faces. A therapy animal enjoys human contact and excessive petting. They are comfortable staying in place, whether it is on a floor, chair, couch, bed or lap, or in their handler’s arms. Therapy animals must obey basic obedience commands, and be tolerant of disturbances. Spending time with animals produces marked improvements in humans, affecting the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of their well-being. Therapy animal workers frequently witness improvements in patients, and occasionally, measurable improvements are witnessed as well. In addition, the benefits listed above may result in a decrease in a person’s need for medications.

Hospitals And Institutions

Hospitals offer a special opportunity to help people through difficult times with the help of therapy animals. Patients appreciate a warm and loving distraction from their pain and worries, as well as the depression and boredom that can result from a long hospital stay.

Mental And Physical Therapy

While there are many different ways in which therapy animal work is conducted, a significant distinction is made for those activities in which a health professional is directly involved. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is conducted by a health professional who uses the animal in providing their service to the client. Thus a typical session would include the health professional, the patient, a therapy animal and its handler. Animal-assisted therapy is where the sessions are designed to help the patient achieve specific goals, such as increased mobility or improved memory. The sessions are documented by the health professional to record activity and progress. Examples of areas where animal-assisted therapy is used to help clients improve:

  • Verbal and physical interactions with others (self-expression, cooperation)
  • Motor skills
  • Mobility and balance
  • Exercise
  • Mental skills (memory, concentration, problem solving)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression (grieving)
  • Trust

Interaction with therapy animals has been shown to lower anxiety and motivate participation. In physical therapy, the patients may be motivated to brush the animal or walk with it. In mental therapy, the animal is seen as a friend and ally, thus presenting a safe atmosphere for sharing. The World English Dictionary defines occupational therapy as follows: Treatment of people with physical, emotional, or social problems, using purposeful activity to help them overcome or learn to deal with their problems That nicely sums up the purpose of animal-assisted therapy. Therapy animals serve as non-judgemental companions in the process of learning and development. They are used for everything from helping with lessons to teaching social skills and responsibility. They help patients with emotional problems that interfere with school, including grief and personal crisis. The use of therapy animals has recently become popular. They are primarily used to reduce stress and depression. Visits with therapy animals have been reported by patients to serve as a healthy method of stress relief. Animal assisted therapy programs provide comfort, emotional support, and hope to the victims of disaster or trauma. Disaster or trauma victims often shut down emotionally and stop thinking clearly. The presence of a dog, and especially physical contact with one, can help calm a person, which allows them to think more clearly Therapy dogs simply have to be very obedient, tolerant, and social. Not all animals in animal assisted therapy programs are dogs! A number of different species are used. A sweet-looking bunny is just as suitable for animal assisted therapy programs. Bunnies are especially useful in animal assisted therapy programs where people are afraid of dogs.

How A Pet Could Help The Addict

If you have ever had a pet—a dog, cat, lizard or even just a goldfish, you know that they can help you feel calm, joyful, loved and needed. Caring for an animal and loving and being loved by one is powerful. Using animals in therapy sessions, or even just to calm patients’ nerves in a dentist’s office, has long been a tool in the arsenal of health care providers. With this in mind, consider getting a pet to help the recovering addict. The responsibility of caring for an animal and the unconditional love it will provide could be greatly beneficial. To understand why having a pet could help the recovering addict, it’s important to learn a little bit about how therapists have used animals to help patients. Patients with a range of illnesses and conditions can benefit from having an animal involved in therapy. This includes children who have suffered from abuse, people with mental health conditions, patients undergoing painful and stressful medical procedures, people facing the stress and fear of terminal illness and even addicts. Research has uncovered what humans have long known: being around animals is good for us. Even for healthy people, animals make us feel happier and more relaxed. We even know from research that simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure dramatically. Being around and touching animals has also been shown to raise levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which makes us feel happier and more loving.

Animals Give Addicts Companionship And Purpose

Interaction with animals, most commonly dogs, can be used to improve a recovering addict’s physical, mental, emotional and social functions. This approach builds nurturing relationships with the animals as specific therapeutic goals are met. Recovering addicts don’t just spend time with the animal, they also perform care-giving tasks that help them regain a sense of responsibility and fulfilment. Tasks like walking, brushing and petting the animal help the patient improve fine motor skills, balance and focus. The emotional bond they form with the pet increases their self-esteem, trust and empathy. The value of service, teamwork, self-expression, communication and cooperation are also emphasised. Animals can help to bridge the gap for those who have a hard time letting others in by providing non-judgemental, non-threatening companionship. A common issue among recovering addicts is a loss of trust. The stress relief and comfort these pets provide make it easier to open up. In fact, a study at Seton Addictions Services found that patients felt more comfortable sharing with their addiction counsellors when their therapy dog was present.

Can Therapy Dogs Assist In Addiction Recovery?

By Santi Meunier http://www.santimeunier.com/ART_dog_assist.php

“In the glance of the speechless animal there is a discourse that only the soul of the wise can really understand.” – an Indian Poet

Therapy dogs typically work with their owners in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and rehabilitation centres. They play with abused children, give affection to the elderly, help the critically ill to laugh and forget their pain for a while, and sometimes provide a warm lick to wipe the tears away. In many cases, the presence of dogs provides a sense of normalcy and reassurance to troubled individuals. One of the reasons therapy dogs can be so helpful is their ability to give unconditional love and comfort. Acceptance and non-judgement are perhaps the two most important gifts that these animals can offer. To these dogs we are “perfect” just the way we are. During more than 20 years of private practice working with alcoholics and their families, I have seen the toll that active addiction takes on an individual’s self-esteem and the family’s sense of safety and trust. Shame, guilt, secrecy and hopelessness create a fertile ground for self-loathing, despair and an abnormal fear response. In an environment where people have proven to not be trustworthy – or, in the addict’s case if they cannot trust themselves – trained therapy dogs can potentially bridge the gap and make a difference in one’s recovery.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Several studies have proven the powerful effects that dogs and companion animals can have in reducing the psychological stress response, anxiety, fear and other nervous disorders. The Delta Society, the leading international resource for the human-animal bond, is a non-profit organization that validates the important role of animals for people’s health and well-being by promoting research findings to the media and health and human services organizations. Delta Society has developed many standards-based training methods, and offers a course for professionals in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). The psychosocial treatment goals are almost identical to many of the treatment goals of addiction recovery after abstention from the addictive substance has been achieved. Cynthia Chandler, author of Animal Assisted Therapy in Counselling, points out that the positive benefits to be gained from therapy can be more immediate when a therapy pet is involved, especially when working with a resistant client. The desire to be with the therapy pet can sometimes override the client’s initial defences. She further points to the natural relationship that occurs between dogs and humans which can result in quick bonding and trust between the client and dog in a therapeutic setting. According to Chandler, this bond between the pet and the client also helps to facilitate a bond with the therapist, as the feelings of affection and trust for the pet are eventually transferred to the pet’s therapist. Screening is required for clients in recovery who have a history of violence, animal abuse, animal phobias or allergies. However, most clients and pets will benefit from this type of therapy. According to Dr. Joseph Volpicelli and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “20 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse disorders, yet only about 2 million are in any kind of treatment program.” It is important for any therapist or physician in the field of alcoholism to keep an open mind to new and emerging treatment and recovery methods, not necessarily as a substitute for current methods or 12-step programs, but as an enhancement. In the last 20 years several universities have established animal assisted therapy training centres for the study, education and research of the animal/human bond and how it can be applied to counselling and other related fields. It is my hope that with continued research and education, animal assisted therapy in varying forms will grow in popularity and respect as a viable counselling tool for addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and other related fields of recovery.

Staying Sober

I recall reading an article in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) publication Grapevine Magazine about a woman with eight years of sobriety who became suicidal after a series of losses in her personal and professional life. Nothing seemed to help her until a sober friend asked for help with her horse. The horse’s non-judgemental and loving manner, coupled with a new-found responsibility for something other than herself, turned the woman’s desperate mood and despondency around. In the years to come the horse helped other people in AA, and became a kind of “Goodwill Ambassador”. Can an animal help prevent a relapse? Well, in the aforementioned case it may not have been the only factor, but it was a key component. As the woman shared her positive experiences with the animal, others became hopeful and stayed sober as well. I recall the story of a man who left his dog in the car on a beautiful summer’s day to go into a pub and have a quick beer. Hours later he emerged into the bright sunlight to find his dog dead from the heat. He was so devastated by the loss of his pet that it became the “bottom” that led him through the doors of AA. He believes that he has continued to stay sober as a result of that loss. Whenever doubt creeps into his consciousness he can quickly remember his old pal and go to another AA meeting. Stories of getting sober and being aided in staying sober fill the halls of AA and other recovery centres, and now, with the expansion of the field of AAT, perhaps the use of animals at treatment centres will one day become commonplace. Love is considered by many to be the universal healer. Is it any less comforting if the source is not human? According to a study done at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Leicestershire, England, a pet’s love can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, moderate the effects of stress, and build a sense of empathy. Love creates a bond that undeniably aids in the health, happiness and a sense of belonging that makes life worth living. These nurturing qualities can easily be translated into a treatment plan for a recovering addict.

Therapy Animals Helping With Rehabilitation

By Myra Davis http://www.bestdrugrehabilitation.com/additional-resources/therapy-animals-helping-with-rehabilitation

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) involves the use of animals to help humans deal with physical or emotional issues. While humans have enjoyed a long relationship with animals, it wasn’t until the 1700’s that an association with animals and therapy occurred. Therapists discovered that children were more responsive to treatment when an animal was involved. Over time, scientific studies analysed the effectiveness of AAT, with startling results. Though AAT may not be as mainstream as some would like, it is much more common to see dogs, cats, horses, and dolphins serving in therapeutic roles.

History of Animal-Assisted Therapy

Humans have long regarded animals as having magical or mystical powers. Ancient cultures revered certain animals as god-like. Much of their use in therapy originates from these early beliefs. The association between animals and human therapy didn’t take shape until William Tuke used domesticated animals with patients in the York Retreat hospital for the mentally ill. Sigmund Freud also used therapy dogs in his practice. Throughout the 20th century, therapeutic animals were used on an exploratory basis with many psychiatrists, physicians, and counsellors documenting the results. Today, therapeutic animals are frequently used in juvenile detention programs, rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, prisons, and mental hospitals.

Types Of AAT

There are various types of AAT. While dogs are the most popular animal used in therapy, many animals provide therapeutic services. Equine or horse therapy is also very popular. Children who are suffering from emotional or mental health issues respond very well to animal-assisted therapy. Dolphin-assisted therapy is a program that is growing in popularity. It has been shown effective for those dealing with different phobias and anxiety issues. Canines are a popular animal used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


Animal-assisted therapy provides many benefits and has been shown to improve physical and mental health. Those suffering from physical ailments may find that AAT helps lower blood pressure, reduces pain, and releases much-needed endorphins. Senior citizens and the elderly may find that AAT results in improved cardiovascular well-being and provides a general sense of improved mood. Those suffering from depression can see improved emotional health from AAT. Animal-assisted therapy boasts many benefits and is used to treat a wide array of conditions Canine-assisted therapy has also long been used to help patients in hospitals and nursing homes to spend time with the certified therapy dog, open up and relax during the healing process, offering them companionship, even if just for a short while. Animal-assisted therapy has shown great success in these programs, making it clear that other therapeutic programs could adopt this treatment approach to help their patients heal in different ways,

What Is Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy is an alternative treatment option used by many drug and alcohol treatment centres. This treatment approach uses the aid of animals to help patients improve their mental, physical, social and emotional functioning. There are many different types of animals used through this therapeutic process. Depending on the patient’s individual needs and what is offered by the treatment centre, they may go through an equine-assisted therapy program, an canine-assisted therapy or a program using another type of animal. Treatment using Animal Assisted Therapy can take place both individual or in group settings. This form of treatment is led by a qualified therapist or professional with specialized expertise in Animal Assisted Therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy is much more than just spending time with animals. Patients are given specific therapeutic goals, strategies and outcomes measures. During therapeutic sessions the patient will care for the animal by walking, brushing, petting, feeding, and ensuring the animals needs are met appropriately.

The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal therapy is known as both a learning and healing process. Patients taking part in these programs have shown many physical and psychological benefits. The bond between animal and man is strong, regardless to if it is the first session or 10th, the bond is clear for each patient taking part in this treatment experience. Animals are non-threatening and non-judgemental, they are accepting and allow patients to open up. Benefits of animal assisted therapy include: Animal assisted therapy has shown to be extremely beneficial for patients who are resistant to treatment or having difficulty expressing themselves and accessing their emotions. While not all drug and alcohol treatment centres offer Animal Assisted Therapy, many are beginning to adopt this alternation treatment approach.

Canine-Assisted Therapy


Building Strength and Confidence through Unconditional Love

One of the more popular features of our drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs at the Recovery Centre for Men is our canine-assisted therapy. Our team of therapy dogs provide unconditional love and support to our patients during their treatment. With many of our patients going through difficult, life-changing experiences, our therapy dogs consistently bring much needed smiles to our patients’ faces. The value of animal-assisted therapy and, more specifically canine-assisted therapy, dates back thousands of years, when our ancestors believed that animals and animal spirits had supernatural powers. Since that time, the use of animal-assisted therapy has become more and more popular in places of healing and recovery. You can find therapy dogs at hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. There are countless studies and historic examples that highlight the many benefits of canine-assisted therapy.

A Helpful Tool in Addiction Recovery

Many of our patients enter treatment feeling ashamed of decisions they’ve made, physically broken down due to poor nutrition and mentally and spiritually drained because of years of substance abuse. The beauty of canine-assisted therapy is that our dogs don’t care what you’ve done wrong and why you’ve ended up in rehab. Therapy dogs just want to love and be loved – similar to a large portion of our addiction patients. This unconditional love and support are invaluable during drug or alcohol rehab, where many individuals have hit rock bottom. A little joy, laughter and happiness go a long way in what is an arduous journey to recovery. Interactions between our patients and canines include grooming, playing, petting, hugging and feeding.

Can Animal-Assisted Therapy Help People Affected By Substance Abuse Or Addiction?

Substance Addiction www.lucidatreatment.com/blog/substance-addiction/animal-assisted-therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is a term used to describe the use of trained dogs or other animals in structured therapeutic practices aimed at helping human beings with specific health problems. Current evidence indicates that several groups of people—including individuals with cancer, serious heart problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—can benefit from this form of therapy. In a study published in 2009 in Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, researchers from Mississippi State University and Lindsey Wilson College assessed the potential of animal-assisted therapy to help people affected by substance abuse or substance addiction. The researchers concluded that this form of therapy can improve substance treatment by strengthening the therapeutic alliance that forms between therapists and their patients/clients.

The Basics

Animal-assisted therapy is a specific form of pet therapy. It differs from the use of dogs or other animals in a group of activities, known as animal-assisted activities, which rely on animal interactions to generally brighten the moods of people such as hospitalised patients and nursing home residents, or to otherwise act as sources of pleasure or diversion. In contrast to this use of animals, animal-assisted therapy relies on trained dogs or other animals to help doctors or therapists achieve concrete goals in the treatment of people affected by significant health concerns. The animals used in this form of therapy receive extensive instruction on how to interact well with human beings in a range of circumstances. Not all animals can meet the requirements for this type of fruitful interaction, and trainers are highly selective about the animals they pick for involvement in assisted therapy programs. Before a session of animal-assisted therapy begins, a client or patient’s doctor will typically explain the basics of the approach and ask permission to bring in the animal. After receiving permission, a trainer or handler will accompany the animal while the client/patient has a chance to interact with the animal, his or her doctor and the animal’s handler. Although animal-assisted therapy frequently takes place in a hospital or other institutionalised setting, it can also take place in other treatment settings.

The Therapeutic Alliance

The therapeutic alliance is a bond that forms between therapists and their patients or clients as the course of therapy proceeds over time. Researchers and health professionals are well aware that the establishment and continued maintenance of this type bond can increase the positive effects of therapy participation and help clients/patients successfully achieve their treatment goals. Therapists work to establish and sustain an effective therapeutic alliance by doing such things as treating their clients and patients in a warm and respectful manner, paying close attention to the shifting tone of each therapeutic interaction, maintaining a trustworthy demeanour and staying away from attitudes or approaches that can alienate or estrange a client or patient.

Usefulness in Substance Treatment

In the study published in Anthrozoos, the researchers used an assessment of 231 individuals affected by substance abuse or addiction to gauge the impact of animal-assisted therapy on the therapeutic alliance. All of these 231 participants were enrolled in residential programs that used group-counselling sessions in their treatment regime. One hundred thirty-five of the participants interacted with a trained therapy dog in a total of 26 counselling sessions. The remaining 96 participants did not interact with a therapy dog during treatment. The researchers used a questionnaire called the Helping Alliance Questionnaire to probe the strength of the therapeutic alliances formed in each of the two groups. After completing their analysis of the gathered data, the researchers found that, when compared to the study participants who did not interact with a therapy dog as part of their treatment, the participants who did interact with a therapy dog generally had a more favourable perspective on the alliances formed with their therapists. Included among the people who had an affirmative take on the impact of animal-assisted therapy were people affected by meth-amphetamine dependence/addiction, cannabis dependence/addiction and problems related to the simultaneous use of two or more substances.

Significance and Considerations

The authors of the study published in Anthropos note that several other subgroups of patients, including people who owned pets and people in treatment as a result of a court order, also had an improved perspective on the therapeutic alliance after participating in animal-assisted therapy. The study’s authors concluded that animal-assisted therapy is a treatment with proven effectiveness that has a productive place among the approaches used by substance addiction programs.

Animal/Pet Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is being used in a wide variety of settings to help people with acute and chronic illnesses. This is based on the many physical and psychological benefits seen in patients when they interact with animals. These include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased beta-endorphin levels (a hormone produced by the brain and nervous system that reduces pain), decreased stress levels, reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety, improved social functioning, and increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-esteem. Animal therapy is looked upon as both a learning and healing experience.

Animal Assisted Therapy and Recovery

by TheGoodDrugsGuide.com Staff www.thegooddrugsguide.com/blog/1618/animal-assisted-therapy-and-recovery

Dogs in the Betty Ford Centre. Horses at Hazelden. Dogs and young addicts in L.A. The use of animal-assisted therapy is increasingly used in addiction recovery, as well as many other fields. So how does it work? The point is not that the animal is supposed to replace a human relationship, according to Phil Tedeschi, founder and director of the Institute for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Denver. Animal-assisted therapy instead aims to be a bridge back to healthy relationships with other humans. As anyone in addiction recovery knows, trust issues are the norm. Most addicts have burned others and been burned by others. After this has happened, it becomes difficult to rely on your instincts about who to trust. Animals lack the emotional agendas of humans. You treat the animal well, and it will likely reciprocate. Developing a bond with an animal can open an addict’s heart and help to develop healthy bonds with humans again. One study done by Seton Addictions Services in Troy, NY, found that patients opened up to addiction counsellors more about their personal histories while dogs were present. Counsellors gained insights into patients’ emotional and behavioural patterns and could guide them to better interaction choices. For example, when patients were annoyed that a dog didn’t immediately want to bond, the counsellor could suggest ways to slow down and gain the dog’s trust.

Addicts And Dogs

You could draw a pretty good analogy here: As dogs are to dogs, addicts are to “normal” humans. While genetically similar to their “normal” counterparts in their respective species, dogs and addicts don’t quite fit in. They’re considered dangerous in their societies. Dogs – hybrids that are too dog-like to survive in the wild but too wolf-like to be adoptable – really get a bum deal. Many are abused, neglected and abandoned. They might be confiscated by authorities, taken to a shelter and euthanised. Young addicts from messed up homes can relate to the difficult path that a wolfdog typically must journey on. Promises, a West Los Angeles addiction treatment centre, teamed up with Wolf Connection, which rescues dogs. Now wolf therapy is part of Promises’ treatment for young adults. While the young addicts help save the dogs from death, the dogs teach their human caregivers wolf principles. These include teamwork, respect, setting and maintaining boundaries, forgiveness, trust and acceptance.

Someone Who Cares

Most addicts have alienated at least some of their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances by the time they hit bottom. Addicts can feel disgusting, dehumanised and thoroughly unlovable. But animals see people differently than other people do. As long as you treat the animal well, it doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, or have scars on your body and soul. The beauty of animal-assisted therapy is that it’s two-way. The addict needs somebody who cares about him or her. The animal needs someone to care for it. The act of taking care of an animal turns an addict into someone who cares for another living creature.

Addiction Treatment: Animal-Assisted Therapy


It is a well-documented fact that animals are therapeutic. For years’ programs have existed that bring together the elderly in nursing homes or home-bound situations with dogs and the end result is a calmer, happier patient. Many different types of therapy programs have begun expanding from traditional interventions to include modalities such as equine therapy. In the field of substance abuse treatment, animal-assisted therapy has proven extremely useful. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the mental health field, I have always felt passionate about providing quality treatment from those suffering from both mental illness as well as substance abuse disorders. One way of providing quality treatment is to “think outside the box” and expose the clients to an array of treatment experiences. I also happen to love dogs, so in 2001, I set about training with my border collie/chow rescue dog in order to get her certified to provide this type of treatment. With a little luck and a lot of hard work on our parts, Cobi passed the exam (based on the Canine Good Citizens Test on the first try and we began work at a halfway house for dually-diagnosed (mental illness/substance abuse) individuals. Cobi and the clients got along famously. The treatment experience lasted for 8 weeks and on the first session of each 8 weeks; each client got paired up with his or her very own therapy dog for the remainder of the sessions. Each week Cobi and I would work with our client for 45 minutes, focusing each week on learning a command to give the dog. The last 15 minutes of each session was spent demonstrating the client’s success with the dog to the group. We closed each session with a bit of processing during which the client got a chance to discuss successes as well as frustrations or things that were difficult such as the dog got distracted, didn’t listen to the client and only took direction from its owner. Across the 8 weeks I could see amazing transformations in these clients as they became engaged with Cobi. Some clients were initially quiet and withdrawn, or in some cases fearful of the dogs but over the 8 weeks the clients were able to lower their anxieties and build their confidence as their identity as a handler grew. The last session of the 8 weeks ended in a “graduation” ceremony in which clients were able to invite friends and family to watch as they demonstrated all of their skills handling the dogs. This provided the clients with the sense of accomplishment and provided them the confidence to move forward in other aspects of their treatment. The experience was so amazing and so rewarding that I was eager to get my new dog Grace, a Belgian Sheepdog certified. In 2005 I began working with both Grace and Cobi at the halfway house as well as a residential treatment program for substance abuse in Chicago. Although much has been written on the benefits of animal-assisted therapy, I am certain of it, and incredibly grateful for my experiences witnessing these incredible changes people can make when engaged with an animal as part of their treatment experience.

Treating Drug Addiction With Animal Assisted Therapy


Drug addiction is a serious health concern in Canada. Building on our growing community-based research team’s history of collaborative work, the aim of this project is to better understand how Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) can assist Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth and adults in their treatment for drug addiction. Many individuals who abuse drugs have traumatic life experiences and use drugs to help cope with the experiences. Research has shown that AAT can assist individuals in dealing with trauma and other mental health concerns, but not a lot has been done in the addictions field. Based upon experiences with AAT, addictions and trauma, our aim is to develop a unique research project addressing all three fields together. Applying a One Health framework, which acknowledges the interdependent relationship between humans, animals and the environment to achieve optimal health & is attuned with an Indigenous paradigm, we undertook a literature review, site visits, collected data and hosted meetings to gain a better understanding of how dogs and horses assist in adult and youth residential facilities to achieve client wellness. We accounted for key elements of AAT as a treatment intervention for drug abuse: the client’s interaction with the program, the human handler, and the animal. The expertise of our diverse team members well-positioned us to undertake this project while adhering to specific ethical standards for working with animals, humans and Aboriginal people. The results of the project will allow our community-based team to facilitate discussions about incorporating best practices into drug dependency intervention programs. Organising our team to gain a comprehensive and collective understanding of AAT, trauma and drug abuse treatment will provide the necessary foundation to develop a stage II grant to cooperatively develop, validate, refine and deliver new treatment options with others.