Therapeutic Service Animals for Addiction Treatment

How Therapeutic Service Animals Aid in Addiction Treatment

It can be a tough decision to enter inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Leaving your home, family, and friends to enter a world filled with change that is different than you’re used to is intimidating. To help ease the pressure of the unknown, Recovery Centers of America uses certified therapy dogs to meet with patients and provide emotional support during their stay in our inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program. Therapy with dogs provides an emotional outlet for many mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, and improves patients’ overall mood as they go through inpatient treatment.

Benefits of Pet Therapy in Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Therapy dogs give patients an opportunity to utilize alternative coping skills and cope with uncomfortable emotions. Often patients experience a multitude of mixed emotions about being in treatment and being away from home and family, all while learning to identify and address emotions they have hidden for a long period of time. It’s courageous work that can at times be extremely difficult. The team at RCA understands and appreciates this and aims to make patients’ time at RCA as welcoming and comforting as possible. Visits with therapy dogs offer an excellent outlet for patients, providing a comforting connection and a reduction in anxiety. One patient who participated in the therapy dog program shared, “The dog was very comforting to me. I was anxious today, but once I spent time with the dog, I was less anxious.”

Therapy dogs respond to human emotions and being around animals can help patients in recovery learn to control their external responses and adjust to a pet’s emotional needs rather than concentrating solely on their internal concerns. Studies show that interacting with therapy dogs, results in an increase in neurochemicals, which initiates a decrease in blood pressure and induces relaxation. The relationship is beneficial for changing agitated behavior and psychological symptoms among patients.

Unconditional Love for Patients at RCA

There are currently a handful of therapy dogs that come into some RCA facilities; specific frequency of visits depends on the facility. These dogs not only bring unconditional love and understanding, but they also assist in helping patients connect on a different level. For patients that connect with dogs or have them at home (and maybe struggling to be away from them), this program serves as an added comfort in a time of need.

Certified therapy dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort, and support to patients who may need special attention. Each dog that visits RCA has a special personality. One likes to cuddle and just be alongside patients; another likes to play and show tricks. They all bring joy and support to patients who are in need of that distinct kind of attention therapy dogs can provide.

Patients at RCA have shown appreciation of these visits and the dogs’ offerings of love. They have utilized the visits when feeling homesick or working through the changes they are facing while in treatment. In fact, one patient said, “The dogs make me feel more at home.”

Recovery Centers of America is Here for You

If you or someone you know needs help with a drug or alcohol addiction, Recovery Centers of America is standing by 24/7 to answer questions and help you with the decisions that can change your or their life for the better. Call us now at 1-800-RECOVERY or 609-782-0005 to get the support and treatment you or your loved one deserve.

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