Animals in Therapy

There are a lot of benefits to have animals used in a therapy setting.

Animals can help people relax, minimize stress, and offer a sense of safety and unconditional acceptance that puts therapy patients at ease. As stated by the American Counseling Association, this can help draw withdrawn or noncommunicative patients into conversation and the therapeutic process so they can get the most out of their therapy.

In substance abuse treatment, patients with trauma or stress in their background can be helped by the presence of animals. They also provide activities through which the individual can be distracted from cravings and triggers. The relief of stress and anxiety through animal-assisted therapy can help these people avoid some triggers to begin with.

History of Animal-Assisted Therapy

According to the journal Annals of Long-Term Care, the relationship between animals and humans having therapeutic potential was first recognized and explored by Florence Nightingale in the 1800s. She discovered that pets decreased anxiety in psychiatric patients and children. In the 1930s, Freud was known to bring his dog to therapy sessions. 

During the second half of the 20th century, psychotherapists started more deeply exploring the ways the human-animal relationship could be use in therapy. Finally, the first programs to certify animals for therapy arose in 1980s.

Now, animals can be found in therapeutic programs in a variety of settings, from hospitals to treatment programs for children with psychiatric issues to substance abuse programs and more.