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How Animals Can Help Heal Addiction

animals and addiction

Petting a puppy and holding a kitten are universally beloved activities for a good reason. Humans have positive interactions with animals and experience countless mental, emotional, and physical benefits. An animal-assisted therapy program harnesses those benefits to help people recover from substance use disorders.

Animals and addiction treatment work surprisingly well together. Many addiction treatment centers, including Vertava Health, are increasingly incorporating animal therapy into traditional treatment practices because of the many proven benefits.

For more information on addiction treatment using animal therapy, contact Vertava Heath by calling 844.470.0410 today.

What Is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal therapy is a form of therapy that encourages interaction with animals in a therapeutic setting. Animals have long been known to affect those who interact with them positively.

Those who participate in animal therapy experience many short- and long-term benefits. Animals most commonly used in animal-assisted therapy include the following:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Rabbits
  • Birds

The benefits of animal therapy have long been studied in incarcerated populations and among individuals with disabilities and mental disorders. Increasingly, addiction treatment centers are beginning to incorporate animal therapy into treatment programs.

How Animals Assist Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment brings life-changing benefits, but the process isn’t always easy. The decision to enter a treatment program brings many major life changes.

Individuals in a treatment program find themselves dealing with drug cravings and significant physical changes as they undergo detox and readjust to daily life without substances.

Treatment involves identifying and addressing matters like unresolved trauma, coping skills, and communication skills. Patients may undergo emotionally taxing therapy sessions and put time and effort into identifying how to restructure their lifestyles to maintain recovery once treatment ends.

Amidst the challenges and stressors faced during treatment, animals assist addiction treatment by relieving stress and teaching valuable lessons. Interacting with an animal in a therapy setting is an evidence-based way of encouraging the brain to release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin.

Encouraging the production of these chemicals is an important part of addiction treatment. Substance use disorder wreaks havoc on brain chemistry. Animal-assisted therapy is a natural way of helping a patient re-establish a healthy mental state.

Benefits of Animal Therapy for Addiction

Animal therapy is proven to bring lasting benefits to those undergoing treatment for substance use disorder. Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy include the following:

  • Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Fosters connection and empathy
  • Teaches emotional intelligence
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Increases feelings of happiness

Fostering effects like these are an essential part of effective addiction treatment. Many treatment programs teach patients that finding connection and inner peace will help them avoid relapse and find fulfillment.

However, achieving these goals is a different matter. Although therapy groups and peer support bring many benefits, they also bring challenges. Animal-assisted therapy is unique because it brings positive benefits in a stress-free, low-pressure environment.

Vertava Health Offers Animal Therapy for Addiction

Animals and addiction treatment naturally complement each other. However, animals alone aren’t enough to overcome addiction. It would be nice if getting a dog was all it took to heal from substance use disorder, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Building a lasting recovery from substance use disorder requires the help of behavioral health professionals. At Vertava Health, we implement many evidence-based therapies to help patients get to the root of the addiction.

We also believe that the more tools we can hand our patients, the greater their chances of success. Animal-assisted therapy is still not in widespread use among addiction treatment programs, and many facilities aren’t equipped to provide patients with this valuable tool for healing.

Vertava Health is proud to offer animal-assisted therapy as a leader in addiction treatment services. For more information on animal therapy and other addiction treatment programs, call Vertava Health at 844.470.0410 today.