The stereotype of mental health treatment used to be sitting in a room with an older person who tells you everything you’ve done wrong to lead you to that point. Luckily, advancements in research and knowledge have opened our eyes to the many effective methods of mental health treatment. An increasingly popular option is known as pet therapy. As the name suggests, it introduces an animal to the treatment process as a form of enrichment and engagement. It can be very therapeutic to be able to vent to a nonjudgmental animal that can still show signs of empathetic understanding. For patients with anxiety, even just having an animal present in the room for a session can ease their tension. In this article, Clearbrook Massachusetts explores the mental health benefits of a therapy animal.
How Does Pet Therapy Work?
Pet therapy is an increasingly common tool utilized in numerous forms of therapies, including both physical and mental. There is no set guideline on how to approach this form of treatment. In its simplest form, the introduction of a therapy animal in a treatment process can promote positive results. The concept was first introduced in the 1960s by Boris Levinson, an American psychologist responsible for discovering the phenomenon by accident. He was struggling to treat an excessively shy child who had been withdrawn from therapy. The only time the child opened up and spoke was when Levinson’s dog, Jingles, was present. This was the first recorded instance of a dog as a “co-therapist.”
Since then, countless facilities have included the use of pet therapy in their treatments. An example of this is when specially trained animals visit a facility to promote benefits to its patients. Another case could be residential facilities adopting an animal to live there as a pet, opting towards random interactions that can be comforting for staff and patients.
Types of Therapy Animals
Theoretically, if the animal is safe, almost any pet can be considered a therapy pet. But there are more popular choices, including:
Dogs are referred to as “man’s best friend” for a reason. They are easily one of the more common examples of therapeutic pets, with different breeds excelling at different objectives. Popular breeds for pet therapy include Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Their friendly demeanor and soft fur make them excellent at lifting spirits.
For more laid-back folks, a therapy cat is an excellent choice. Addiction centers and nursing homes may include cats to help patients dealing with missing their own pets. They serve as a beneficial alternative for patients that may experience fears of the outdoors or more active animals like dogs.
Many mental health facilities recognize the benefits of therapy horses. It is well known that assisting in the grooming of these graceful creatures is helpful in a patient’s treatment. Many behavioral health facilities implement methods of equine therapy to engage patients outside of a small stuffy room.
Animal Therapy for Mental Health
Animals can be an incredible addition to patients at many different points of their recovery journeys. It speaks to the impact that personalization of treatment can have on a patient’s success. At our Massachusetts treatment center, we recognize the importance of variety in treatments. Our residential mental health care includes engaging art therapy and even faith-based options.