Therapy Animals Help Recovering Addicts

Therapy Animals Help Recovering Addicts—Tips for First-Time Owners

The emotional bond between pet and owner can be, in many ways, strong and unbreakable.

Not only can pets love their owners to death, they express their love in a special way, with no judgement. This is a quality people struggling with addiction – a mental health affliction loaded with social stigma and discrimination – happen to desire greatly.

Thankfully, addiction therapists across the country are figuring out that this special kind of furry pet love, complete with wagging tails and playful licks, is terrific therapy for helping recovering addicts beat their addiction. Fostered in the right therapeutic setting, guided by professionals, addicts across the US are finding the unconditional love of a companion animal to be lifesaving. Today, Cool 4 All presents some tips to help first-time owners prepare for their new pets.

How Pet Therapy is Arranged

Several studies have proven the physical and emotional benefits to taking care of a pet. However, leveraging pet power in the treatment of addiction often requires that the addict be paired with an animal that has a specific kind of personality that addresses the patient’s needs.

The handler of the specially trained animal typically undertakes this task and oversees the pet-patient relationship in the background of a hospital, care home, or treatment centre. Standard activities such as walking, playing, feeding and grooming the companion animal calm the patient, and lifts the dark feeling of “doom and gloom” that so often afflicts addicts in recovery.

Playing fetch with a dog or observing a cat enjoy her catnip are just a few of the many ways such animals help improve patients’ social, mental, physical and emotional functions and help them face their demons, says Dr. Santi Meunier, a psychotherapist and expert in addiction recovery.

How Addicts Directly Benefit From Animal Therapy

Substance-abuse patients dwell almost exclusively on themselves. By having them engage with an animal, they are made to think first of the needs of others. When doing so in a group setting, addicts generally become more social with their peers and treatment specialists. In addition, doctors observing the relationship gain greater insights into the self-esteem issues of the patient, which helps them identify coping techniques and positive new behaviours.  

Companion animals also help addicts learn more about communication, teamwork, self-expression, and trust. Key to successful treatment, the fun-loving animals also help scale down the tension peaks that come up during difficult discussions in therapy.

4 Tips for First-Time Owners of a Therapy Animal

How to Prepare Yourself for the First Encounter

Whether you’re taking a therapy animal home, or live in a treatment centre, you want to be good and ready for your first encounter with your matched companion animal. The first step is to prepare your environment so that she begins to recognize your corner of the world as a home she can feel comfortable in.

When you go the extra mile and tuck those electrical cables away, clean up the clutter, and buy toys and/or scratching posts, you’re paving the first foundation of trust in a relationship that is bound to be enjoyable and beneficial for the both of you. Remember, your companion animal trusts you implicitly to care for their every need. In return, you regain the self-confidence that you can not only care for yourself, but for another.

How to Treat a Case of Animal Jitters

If your new companion animal gets the jitters around certain areas of your home—place water and pet food in the space so they can develop positive associations with the area and play with them there. Don’t wall them off in corners where they can’t get a full view of the house. If necessary, go heavy on the pet treats in the beginning to reward them for good behaviour.

Remember that your own stress and anxiety can affect your companion, so work on reducing stress levels in your home by decluttering and practising meditation. Soon you’ll build a trusting rapport with one another.

Prepare Your Home Office for Your New Pet

If you work from home and have a workspace set up, make sure you secure electrical wires to ensure your pet doesn’t chew on them. Also, if you have small objects around your office, make sure your new friend can’t get to them. Small items are choking hazards, and they are always important to secure, and a home office can be a virtual playground filled with paperclips, staples, and other dangerous items. The safer your office, the more peace of mind you’ll have.

Establish a Routine with Your New Pet

While sticking to a feeding, walking and play routine with your companion animal can be difficult for a recovering addict, see the challenge as one that will help focus your mind on staid, day-to-day topics rather than the kind that can trigger a downward spiral. Combining your pet care routine with your own self-care, such as jogging or bicycling alongside a companion dog, can do wonders for your own constitution as well as that of your furry friend.

Cool 4 All has all the cute and fun videos you need to help you through your day. If you have any questions, please let us know!

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