Pets are Good for Our Mental Health: Pet Therapy
In this age of research and technology, we are understanding more and more about the biochemical and physiological actions that affect our well-being. We rely greatly on the technology of medicine to maintain and heal our minds and bodies. It's refreshing to know that the evidence is supporting a simple fact most of us already know: pets are good for us.
Maddox, Certified Therapy Dog, Offers Comfort and Encouragement
I've used horses for years to help people successfully heal from difficult times in their lives. Recently, I've been lucky enough to add another four-legged partner to my practice--Maddox, a certified therapy dog. Maddox is a two-year-old mixed breed I adopted from a local rescue agency. Within the first week of owning Maddox, I realized his attentiveness to people and his calling as a therapy dog. His favorite activity is offering himself to be petted, followed closely by napping. Maddox always unconditionally welcomes people and offers his support. He's played dress-up with a pink feathered boa during play therapy, while offering comfort to a young girl who had lost both of her parents. He's helped to encourage a veteran to see the world beyond the wheelchair he had been confined to for the past two years.
Pets Make You Feel Loved and Important
Maddox is the same as most pets. He'll be your confidant and never tell anyone your secrets. He'll give you a shoulder to cry on or a good laugh when you need it. If you own a pet, you have a valuable ally. They make you feel important and never forget to tell you that you matter. They are always glad to see you, whether this is the first time you've met, you returned after one minute, or two months. YOU are the greatest thing in his or her life. This attitude in itself helps improve your mood and subsequent outlook on life, giving us a healthier perspective to face the challenges that lie ahead of us.
Unconditional Love Along with a Wagging Tail
Maddox won't give up on you. He has every confidence that you have what it takes to be okay. Many of my clients have been through difficult situations, or done things they regretted. They've been mistreated and rejected by friends and family. Maddox and their own pets still believed in them and had faith that they were able to overcome the obstacles in their lives. They shared a steady belief that their people are good with positive things to offer. This unconditional support, along with a wagging tail or twitching nose, can be the message that helps people keep on going when they want to give up.
I have a photo on my wall of my horse, Breen, who was rescued from a medical facility when she was eight months old. One woman who experienced
significant reflection by her parents through repeated and severe abuse as a child and into adulthood will often look at Breen's photo and tell herself: "She's a survivor, and if she can do it, so can I." She keeps a smaller copy of the photo with her at home.
Any kind of Pet can be beneficial to people. Even watching fish in an aquarium has shown to help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate. One man who suffered with the effects of PTSD following his return from war, found that feeding and caring for his fish gave him a reason to stay active in the world instead of giving up on life.
Pets Help Relieve Loneliness
Depression and loneliness often go hand-in-hand. People who are depressed have a tendency to withdraw from others. Sometimes pets are the only family some people have. Knowing that their pets are happy to fill in the lonely spots in their lives and families, helps people to feel better and connected.
Pets help increase social exposure. Dogs need walks . This gets the person holding the leash out with other people. Having the dog with you helps break down barriers. People tend to approach people with pets more frequently, and they provide a topi for conversation, increasing success in social situations and subsequently self-esteem. The military has recently begun using dogs as a part of therapy helping veterans returning from war recover from PTSD. The early findings are that the effectiveness of pairing a soldier with a dog for treatment is equal to medication in alleviating symptoms.
Not only do pets help keep us from being lonely they help take the focus off the owners problems. You have made the commitment and must care for and feed your pet. When a person's focus is outward, they are not able to dwell on their own depressed mood and problems as much. They can help a person get "unstuck".
Pet Ownership is Not For Everyone, but Maddox is Here if You Need Him
For some, the investment of time and money prevents them from caring for another life. If someone is experiencing severe symptoms of a mental health condition that would prevent them from being able to meet the needs of an animal, or simply isn't and animal person, adopting a pet would not be a good answer. If you determine that you are not able to care for an animal, this does not make you a bad person, it makes you a responsible one. Besides, Maddox is always here if you need him.
For more information on how Chantelle Grant and Maddox can help you, please contact us.
Article Written by: Chantelle Grant, LCSW