February 17, 2021
Therapy pets provide a number of health benefit to the people who utilize their services. They support physical and mental health not by performing tasks, as service animals do, but by being there and catering to the emotional needs of the patient. Those who suffer from mental health issues can also be aided by the presence of a therapy animal.
Therapy pets have private owners who are a certified team together. These owners use the love of their pet to help another to heal or to cope with life. Many therapy pets are dogs but they can also be cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, horses, lizards and fish and others. They are trained to be gentle, patient, social and hospitable.
The Mentally Ill
Those with mental difficulties are often marginalized by society. They are tucked away so no one can see them. Often, people don’t get help because they are ashamed or embarrassed about their condition. Mental illness is a real disease and only treatment and awareness will dispel the stigma and stop the problem.
One avenue of support is through pet therapy. These animals are familiar to nursing facilities, hospitals and even schools. Why not companionship for those with mental challenges? It can be of great benefit to them. Here are some of the conditions that have been helped by pet therapy.
Mental Health Issues and Pet Therapy
Elderly people who may not be able to take care of a pet themselves can still have the benefit of them through pet therapy programs. Regular visits from these animals builds a relationship. The animal looks forward to the visit as much as the other person. They become a constant to help them remember more, stay socialized and return to normalcy (especially if they are living in a nursing home or assisted living facility).
Therapy animals can draw out children who are on the autism spectrum. These interactions can be used to teach responsibility, physical development, social skills and focus. Animals can be intuitive and anticipate the needs of those they are serving once the relationship is established. Because animals are patient, children can learn at their own pace. Equine therapy (horses) has also been shown to improve the lives of autistic patients.
Some mental issues are a result of traumatic circumstances. In these cases, therapy animals are instrumental in recovery through their patience and unconditional acceptance of people. Caring for the animal is therapeutic in itself. It teaches responsibility, focus and trust. Animals will stay by your side and comfort you when you need a friend. They are fiercely loyal and protective. Having that support can make the tough road to recovery more bearable.
People with mental health issues can benefit from contact with a therapy pet.