Animals used for therapy is certainly not a new idea. For years, it was thought that animals offered therapeutic, emotional, psychological, and physical benefits to a patient. Today, we know that these animals are useful in all these ways and many more.
Animal assisted therapy is a program wherein the presence of an animal is part of the whole process of treatment. An individual trained in health care will often oversee the whole process.
Studies have shown that owning a pet simply makes us feel good. Having a reciprocal relationship of unconditional love with our pet feels even better. Studies conducted have shown that interaction with a pet has a definite positive impact on an individual’s emotional state of mind.
Studies have also demonstrated that stress, anxiety, panic, fear, and loneliness are all alleviated or lessened in individuals who own pets. Individuals who engage with a pet show better moods, a more positive outlook, and an inspired attitude as compared with those who do not own pets. An increase in self-esteem is also shown as one of the studied benefits of interaction with a pet.
It has also been shown that cognitive development, social skills, and a reduction in aggression are some of the many more benefits achieved through animal interaction. Overcoming shyness is another benefit of having a pet in the life of an individual. Research shows that shy individuals tend to become more outgoing when a pet is involved.
The physical benefits of animal assisted therapy and pet-facilitated therapy are numerous. For one thing, research and studies show that animal-assisted therapy or pet-facilitated therapy help patients to lower their blood pressure. Lower pressure, of course, can equate to a healthier heart. Another benefit is having lower cholesterol. Heart rate and cholesterol are positively impacted because the presence of a pet reduces stress and anxiety in a patient.
Some patients benefit from a doctor’s visit simply by having a pet in the room to alleviate stress. A small amount of time spent with a friendly dog is enough to lower the fight or flight chemical, including cortisol. When an individual is relaxed, stress hormones do not kick in and this can help a patient get well.
Therapists have used animal assisted therapy and pet-facilitated therapy to bring an uncooperative, withdrawn patient out in the open and create a space of trust and confidence.
These therapies are useful in areas where physically, emotionally, physiologically, and socially challenged individuals are concerned.
Animal assisted therapy and pet-facilitated therapy are used in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, adult homes, and in many other facilities with much success.
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