The advantages of seeing an emotional support animal therapist

Emotional support animals are being used by many individuals dealing with both emotional and mental disabilities. These animals are not mere pets, but instead they are companion animals that are used to provide therapeutic treatment to individuals suffering from a disability. It is not enough for a person to simply want companionship in order to qualify for an emotional support animal. They must have a diagnosed and verified disability. Emotional support animals, unlike service animals that are used to pull wheelchairs and assist the blind, do not need specific training. Even though these animals do not receive special training, research has shown that there are definite advantages to seeking help from support animal therapy.

Settings Where Animal Assisted Therapy Is Beneficial

Animal assisted therapy has been shown to be beneficial in a wide range of settings. Examples of these settings include places such as hospitals, nursing homes and facilities that treat teenagers and adults who are dealing with mental health issues. Animal assisted therapy can be administered on a one-on-one basis, or it can be administered in group settings. This style of therapy will be led by a therapist who has experience in the field.

Contrary to what some may believe, animal assisted therapy is not to just an individual sitting with an animal. Animal assisted therapy has set therapeutic goals. There are specific strategies that are used to help patients who are dealing with mental and emotional challenges, and there are milestones that are used to measure the results that the therapy is having. Some of the therapeutic procedures used in animal assisted therapy include walking the dog, brushing or petting the animal, or working with the animal to achieve a particular task.

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy works because of the natural strong bond that exists between animals and humans. One of the benefits of animal assisted therapy as opposed to more traditional forms of therapy is the way that the patient interacts with the animal as opposed to interacting with the human. For an individual who is experiencing emotional or mental health issues, interacting with other people can at times seem to be overwhelming. Their past experiences may have taught them to view humans as threatening and judgmental. However, many patients do not have the same view of animals. They view animals as nonthreatening and nonjudgmental. For this reason, it is easier for them to open up to animals.

Animal assisted therapy has been shown to help patients improve complicated motor skills, regain or improve their balance, and speed the healing process. Patients who are struggling with problems associated with attention deficit disorder have been trained to improve their focus and attention. Patients who are battling with self-esteem issues have been able to use animal assisted therapy to help them increase their feeling of self-reliance and gain confidence in their ability to care for the animal and for themselves.

Animal assisted therapy has been shown to be exceptionally beneficial for those who are dealing with feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. This is especially the case for those who have experienced loss as a result of a traumatic accident or a violent attack.

As previously mentioned, individuals dealing with mental and emotional illness are more likely to view an animal as nonthreatening as opposed to a human. For this reason, animal assisted therapy has been use to work to help patients increase trust, build and increase the sense of empathy that they have first for the animal and then for humans, and to help people see the value of working in a team.

Patients are often given the opportunity to work with the animal in resolving problems ranging from relatively simple issues to more complicated tasks. As they are able to successfully accomplish a task, an individual who is receiving animal assisted therapy will have an increased sense of self-esteem, learn the benefits of self-control, and develop enhanced problem solving skills.

Conditions and Disorders Treated by Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy has been used for a wide range of conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

• Autism

• Addiction

• Cancer

• Dementia

• Schizophrenia

• Behavioral Disorders

• And Chronic Pain

Some of the benefits of animal assisted therapy as opposed to traditional forms of therapy and human interaction can be seen when we look at the following example.

Emotional Support Animals Reduce Anxiety after Hospital Stays

According to a report that was published by The American Heart Association Scientific Session in 2005, patients who were hospitalized with heart and lung failure problems experienced a drastic reduction in harmful hormones and showed a reduction in anxiety after spending just 12 minutes with an emotional support dog. Interestingly, the same study showed that patients who had this interaction with dogs fared better than those who had interaction with human volunteers and those who were left by themselves. According to the same report, eight minutes into the visit with the emotional support animal, patients experienced a 24 percent drop in their anxiety scores. Patients who had human visitors during that time only experienced a 10 percent drop in their anxiety scores, and for some, there was no drop at all. According to Kathie M. Cole of the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, “This study demonstrates that even a short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial psychological and psychosocial effects on patients who want it.”

Animal assisted therapy is one of the many therapies that are being used to help individuals who are recovering from illnesses and who are dealing with emotional and mental health issues. It has proven itself to be an effective option especially for individuals who do not respond well to more conventional forms of treatment or who have difficulty expressing their emotions in talk therapy. Teenagers and children have been shown to be especially responsive to this type of therapy.