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Over the years, many exciting and innovative treatment methods have come to fruition. Some of these methods have proven more successful than others, but what’s noteworthy is that they’re individualized to each person seeking treatment. We can’t stress this enough; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. What works for you may not work for others. However, one of the exciting new treatment methods that’s had a positive influence on people’s mental health during recovery is pet therapy. 

If you’re an animal lover, incorporating them into your recovery can be a formidable way to get and stay sober. Whether you attend pet therapy regularly, have a service dog, or decide to adopt a furry friend, knowing how these options can benefit your mental health and recovery is helpful. Continue reading to learn more about how pets influence mental health during recovery, and consider contacting West Coast Recovery Centers for more information.  

What Is Animal Companionship and What Are Its Benefits?

Animal companionship can be a lifesaver for many. For young children, it can be an excellent way to teach responsibilities. Pets also offer companionship to single adults or elderly individuals who’ve lost a spouse. However, the benefits don’t stop there. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has gone on to explain the power of pets and the potential benefits we can experience. 

According to the NIH, about 68% of U.S. households have a pet. Despite mixed results and the need for further research, having a pet and interacting with animals can be very beneficial. Nowadays, we often hear terms like service animal or emotional support companion thrown around interchangeably, but what actually is the difference? Furthermore, how do these differ from pets? 

Service Animal, Emotional Support Animal, and Pet: What’s the Difference?

Pets, emotional support animals, and service animals aren’t the same thing, but how do they differ from one another? For starters, a service animal is a working animal trained to directly support disabled individuals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal describes dogs that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Those disabilities may include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. Support and tasks vary depending on the disability. Under the ADA, emotional support or therapy animals aren’t service animals.

Rather, an emotional support animal provides support, comfort, and companionship, typically to individuals with a mental health condition. Whereas service animals perform specific tasks, therapy animals are trained to be comfortable in new environments where they interact with people. These animals may serve as emotional support companions for a single individual, while others bring them to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other facilities to provide therapeutic services. However, because they’re not considered service animals, they don’t retain the same legal right to access public spaces. 

Now, a pet is not an emotional support companion. At the end of the day, your pet is simply your pet. While this prevents you from taking your pet into the same environment as a service dog or emotional support animal, you can still experience mental health benefits by simply having an animal at home. Additionally, in a clinical setting, you can start experimenting with and recognizing the influence and benefits animals have during recovery. 

Using Animal Therapy During Recovery

Animal therapy, sometimes known as pet therapy or animal-assisted intervention, uses animals to help people recover from a physical or mental health condition. For many seeking treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), animal interactions can positively transform the entire therapeutic process. It does so by creating rapport with counselors and helping clients manage co-occurring disorder symptoms during treatment. Ultimately, this helps to increase successful outcomes among clients. 

The implementation of animal-assisted therapy may vary from one facility to the next. Rehabs may have a bi-weekly pet therapy session or use animals in group therapy. Some facilities may also have animals on the premises for clients to use as needed, which is often seen with equine therapy. Animal therapy during recovery can: 

  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Decrease stress levels
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Increase physical activity 
  • Reduce feelings of loneliness 
  • Improve your overall mood 
  • Increase social support 
  • Provide a sense of purpose
  • Foster a sense of responsibility
  • Boost self-confidence 

Can Having a Pet Improve My Mental Health During Recovery?

Admittedly, you may not be in a place to get a pet immediately following treatment. However, if animal interactions during treatment were helpful, it may be worth looking into. Not only will having a pet during recovery continue improving your mental health and offering the above benefits but it’ll also bring you unconditional love and companionship. The impact of having a pet during recovery varies from person to person, but it might just be the thing staining between you and a lifetime of sustainable sobriety. 

To learn more about the power of pets during recovery or to seek treatment, visit our website or call West Coast Recovery Centers. You can begin your journey toward recovery and wellness today. 

We animal lovers adore our fur babies and, let’s face it, we’d sometimes rather spend time with them than actual people. Aside from unconditional love and companionship, what other benefits are we experiencing by having a pet? More important for those of us recovering from addiction, what are the benefits of having a pet during recovery? Interacting with animals during treatment and recovery can reduce stress levels, improve anxiety, depression, and other conditions, and increase positive recovery outcomes. That’s in addition to a number of other benefits people experience when they have pets during recovery. Visit the West Coast Recovery Centers website to learn more, or call us at (760) 492-6509 today!