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Many rehab centers in the United States have started implementing animal therapy to help those who struggle with substance abuse disorder. Animal-assisted rehabilitation helps increase the psychological, physical, social, and emotional functioning of patients. There isn’t one specific animal that is always used in animal therapy, in fact, many different animals have been used. Horses and dogs are the most common many of the rehabs throughout the country, but some facilities have also found benefits using llamas, cats, rabbits, parrots, and even dolphins.

It’s not just drug and alcohol treatment centers that have found the benefits of integrating animals into their treatment programs.  Animal-assisted therapy is performed in a variety of settings, including jails, hospitals, mental health facilities, adolescent counseling programs, boarding schools, and nursing homes. Animal-assisted therapy should always be lead by an expert in the field or a therapist who is qualified to work with that specific animal. When working with larger animals, groups will often travel to where those animals stay, but smaller animals can be brought right into the treatment center.

Animal-assisted therapy at rehab programs is about much more than just simply spending time near and with the animals. There are specific therapeutic goals that are set for every client to achieve at each session. The staff at the rehab center will often work with the animal’s handlers to convey the purpose of the therapy session to set up certain strategies and develop outcome measurements. Without a set plan, clients can still gain some benefits from their time spent with the animal, but it will not be as significant as if there was a plan set in motion by the staff.

How Can Animal Therapy Help People with Substance Abuse Disorder?

Animal-assisted therapy is a great alternative to the classic group setting and will help through a bit of diversity into the client’s treatment schedule. There is no denying that there is a strong bond between people and animals. The animals used in therapy at rehabs are very friendly, non-judgemental, completely accepting, and not threatening; this makes it much easier for clients to open up and show their true selves. It’s not rare for clients in a rehab center to be somewhat standoffish when it comes to telling their true story and dealing with the deep underlying issues that may be the root cause of their substance abuse.  Animal-assisted therapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have been combative during treatment or have had difficulties accessing their emotions or truly expressing themselves in a classic therapy setting.

There are a variety of benefits directly associated with animal therapy, especially for those with substance abuse disorder. Clients who regularly participated in animal-assisted therapy while in rehab showed improved concentration and attention after just a session or two. This will help their mind from wandering into the dark place where relapses occur and will also improve what they get out of talk therapy groups. Clients also showed increased self-esteem and self-care capacity which leads to reduced anxiety and depression. It is quite common for drug addicts and alcoholics to struggle with anxiety and depression. If these issues are not properly addressed then the risk of a relapse occurring will increase substantially.

One of the most commonly noticed improvements in animal-assisted therapy is the client’s willingness to participate in the program and in group sessions. Not only will the clients build a bond with the animal they are interacting with, but they will also become closer to the other clients partaking in the animal therapy session. Having a strong bond with other clients in the facility is extremely important and will greatly improve the quality of that client’s stay in the rehab. This will also help increase confidence and can lead to better problem-solving skills.

Prior to entering a rehab program that offers animal-assisted therapy, one must complete detox. The benefits associated with animal therapy will be extremely minimal if the individual is still experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Most rehab and treatment centers that offer this type of care are privately owned inpatient programs that accept insurance. It is quite rare to find state-funded rehabs that offer animal-assisted therapy as an option.

Finding a Rehab and Detox Center Near You

If you or someone you care about are currently struggling with substance abuse disorder and would like help locating a rehab or detox center in your area, please contact our toll-free line. A substance abuse specialist is always standing by ready to answer any questions you might have. Calls are always free of charge and your conversation is absolutely confidential. No one should ever try to attempt to overcome their substance abuse issues alone, help is available, call today.