Finding a way to maintain your sobriety and avoid an unforeseen relapse is always priority number one. It requires personal effort and support from friends and loved ones, and – above all – it demands absolute commitment from you.
While it’s exceedingly advantageous to have people in your life who encourage your substance abstinence and hold you accountable, one of the biggest supports in your recovery journey may not actually come from a person at all.
Instead, you may find both comfort and inspiration from a pet or animal companion that provides you with a sense of encouragement. From equine therapy to canine therapy, the manner in which pets can provide therapeutic relief and emotional support has been shown to positively impact addiction recovery in a variety of settings.
Incorporating these furry companions into your treatment plan is an excellent way to not only maintain your sobriety, but also foster a relationship that is wholly positive in nature.
Animal Assisted Therapy for Addiction: How Can Pets Help?
Incorporating animal assisted therapy options into your treatment plan has been shown to positively impact a person’s health and wellbeing. As you recover, pets can help you:
- Reduce stress – Playing with and petting your fury friend can help lower oxytocin levels in the brain, which, in turn, helps you feel more relaxed and less stressed. The rhythmic stroking of an animal is calming, and pet therapy has also been shown to help keep blood pressure levels lower.
- Obtain a healthier lifestyle – The benefits of spending time outdoors are endless, but sometimes finding the motivation to go for a jog can be tough. Fortunately, having a dog makes trading your couch and Netflix for some sun and fresh air a lot easier. Because your dog’s wellbeing depends on how much exercise they get, you will find yourself being more active. Whether it is daily morning walks or playing fetch in the backyard, having a dog helps you exercise without even realizing it.
- Feel unconditional love – One of the main ways pets can help those in recovery is the ability to love unconditionally. Relationships with people are not always as smooth sailing. Friends and loved ones can disappoint with broken promises and bad behavior, and trust can often be lost. Nevertheless, a pet will always be there for its owner and will respond to affection every time. This kind of relationship can be immensely powerful for an individual in recovery.
Animal Assisted Therapy Benefits for Addiction Recovery
There are a number of types of animals that can be used in a therapeutic environment, from hamsters to fish to felines, but the most common types included in substance abuse settings are dogs and horses.
These two species have proven to provide added strength and encouragement to those recovering from addiction. Interacting with these types of animals in treatment and during recovery not only aids in supporting sustained sobriety, it also helps to increase self-awareness and improved emotional control.
Some of the benefits associated with animal assisted therapy include the following:
- Pets help you learn about yourself – Animals, especially dogs and horses, exhibit total emotional honesty. They cannot hide their feelings and will show signs of fear, anger, happiness and relaxation.
People can learn and benefit from experiencing this emotional honesty. After years of numbing emotions through drug or alcohol abuse, recognizing and expressing emotions is a skill that has to be relearned.
Animals can also reflect the emotions shown by the person handling them. If you are fearful and anxious around a horse, the horse will also act fearful and anxious. This mirroring can help people recognize their emotional state and learn to relax.
- Pets help you practice building relationships with others – Entering addiction recovery almost always means letting go of old relationships and building new ones. People can easily form bonds with pets, often more easily than starting new relationships with people.
Pets are great listeners. You can talk to them about anything, and even practice difficult or nerve-racking conversations with them. Having a pet can get you out of the house to meet other pet owners at the dog park or pet store and can give you a topic for starting a conversation with someone new.
While pets are great companions, forming and nurturing healthy and supportive relationships with other people is imperative in recovery. Pets can help you break the ice in your quest for new sober friendships.
How Animal Assisted Therapy for Addiction Recovery Works for You Once You Get Home
Whether you choose to incorporate animal-assisted treatment into your individual program goals or decide it is not for you, the most important thing is to simply start the recovery process. Choosing a clinically sound treatment facility will help you begin your path toward sobriety with the proper support and guidance while also exposing you to innovative therapeutic approaches.
If the facility offers animal assisted therapy options, it can expose you to treatment opportunities you may have never experienced before. When guided by professionally trained staff, animal assisted therapy can expand your horizons and better prepare you for the inevitability of starting your life again with improved support systems in place.
After all, what better way to head home after treatment concludes than with a furry companion by your side, showing you unconditional love and providing a comforting ear whenever you need to get something off your chest.
Renowned Holistic Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery
Where do you want to take your life? What will help you achieve that version of yourself? Offering an alternative to the traditional 12-step program, Ranch Creek Recovery offers a variety of all-encompassing, holistic in-patient treatment services – including equine therapy.
Your situation is unique, which means your treatment must be customized to fit your individual recovery needs. Learn more about Ranch Creek Recovery and our holistic and experiential non-12-step rehab approach.
Contact us today to get your questions answered.