Animal-assisted therapy is a type of alternative therapy in which animals play a supporting role in the treatment of physical or mental health conditions. There are many different types of animal-assisted therapy, and it’s suitable for a huge variety of people. Read on to find out four benefits of this style of therapy, to give you a better understanding of how it works and who it can help.
1. Animals can reduce stress
There’s a growing body of evidence to show that interacting with animals reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. For those dealing with mental health conditions, animal-assisted therapy could help them to reduce their stress levels acutely during their therapy sessions. For people undergoing therapy for physical health conditions, alleviating stress may be particularly important for their recovery because high cortisol levels can contribute to a wide range of health complications, such as high blood pressure and muscle weakness.
2. Animals can boost social connections and confidence
Pets can help people form friendships and become more socially connected and confident. This is because they often serve as common ground for people to strike up conversation about. In therapy, animals can serve as a talking point between patient and practitioner or between multiple patients in group therapy settings. This can be particularly helpful for patients who struggle to communicate, such as those with autism spectrum disorder or dementia.
3. Animal interaction can alleviate loneliness
According to a recent survey, 85% of people believe that interacting with pets can reduce feelings of loneliness. Animals provide company and they can be a very valuable source of unconditional friendship for those who are vulnerable. The company of an animal throughout therapy can help patients to feel less alone in tackling their problems, and therefore less daunted and more motivated to complete treatment successfully.
4. Encourages speech
The benefits of animals for speech can mainly be seen when working with children – however, all therapy patients can benefit. Many people may be reluctant to talk to a therapist through fear of being judged or even due to shyness. Animals offer support without actually saying any words, which makes them easy for shy people to speak to. Having access to an animal whilst in therapy encourages people to talk and open up about how they are feeling, and sometimes just speaking their thoughts out loud can make a huge difference. Animals can also be used in speech therapy to help children feel brave enough to talk.
Animals are incredible for human wellbeing
The benefits of animal-assisted therapy demonstrate the incredible positive impact that animals can have on our wellbeing. Spending more time with animals is a great way to maintain good mental and physical health, no matter if it’s via a program of therapy or in your own time. If you think bringing a furry friend into your household could support your wellbeing, do your research to find an option that aligns with your lifestyle and you can feel the benefits for yourself.