Most people with pets are content with the companionship that their pets bring to them. This is why pet therapy came about back in the early 1960’s. While Dr. Boris Levinson was working with a mentally impaired and withdrawn young boy, he discovered that his dog, Jingles, had made a positive effect on the boy. Dr. Levinson briefly left his office where the dog and the boy remained alone only to find that the two were interacting with one another in a way that the boy had never opened up like before. After that experience in his office, Dr. Levinson began to experiment with other withdrawn children and found that the pets were beneficial in a therapeutic setting.
Since the 1960’s, pet therapy, or Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), has evolved into something that has become influential with many other people that suffer from specific illness, mental health issues, and addiction. While the initial purpose of animals, such as horses and dogs, were used to improve the mood of the patient, AAT has developed into so much more. What happens for some people who need therapy is that they interact more with a therapist with a dog present.
Someone with addiction usually has a problem with their self-image physically, mentally, and spiritually. Engaging in pet therapy has been shown to not only improve mood, but greatly boost the self-esteem of the patient. Having a animal in a therapy session also helps build a stronger trust with the therapist and the patient making the session more open and honest to really help get into the issues that may seem hard to go over.
The human body produces a hormone called oxytocin, or the bonding hormone, that creates a stronger bond between a dog and releases natural opioids within a patient’s reward center in the brain that is instrumental in restoration and balance. Reduction of stress hormones is also a perk with AAT because the immune system is helped along with pain management.
This ever-growing field of therapy uses pets to assists people to recover from their health problems while helping them cope at the same time. All ages of people have been known to use animals as their preferred way of coping. Family members and loved ones that are sometimes part of sessions also report that they feel much better when they leave too.
Pet therapy has improved the lives of many people and will continue to do so ongoing. Having a good relationship with the animal, the therapist, and eventually with themselves, patients of pet therapy would wag their tails if they had one.
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