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Pet Therapy: When “Heel” Turns Into Healing

Most of us agree that animals can provide a soothing and calming effect, which makes pet therapy an ideal treatment for many people. Pets can help reduce blood pressure and the release endorphins that help to produce a calming effect. Studies starting from the 1980s have shown amazing results for cardiovascular health and dogs specifically have shown to be very healing with patients battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or in child therapy, especially children with autism.

Therapy dogs are certified and trained to assist in the treatment process for people with mental health issues. Dog therapy or animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is provided alongside a human therapist who is also trained in the use of this type of therapy. They can assist in a number of treatments such as depression, PTSD, Anxiety disorder, stress management, traumatic loss and grief management – all of which only enhances conventional therapies. Even university students struggling with stress have been shown to have significant stress reduction after engaged in therapy dog sessions. Veterans struggling with PTSD suffer from constant fear, anxiety and depression which leads to isolation and many times, substance abuse.

According to Smithsonian.com:

Researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects, such as elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms,” says Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection.

Choices Psychotheapy recognizes the value in pet therapy and the potential is has to help their patients. Meet Adina, whose name comes from the Hebrew name, meaning delicate, refined, gentle. She is a yellow lab who works with Choices Psychotherapy therapist, Carrie Snyder to aid in animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and helps patients relieve stress, ease sadness as well as other strong emotions.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues and are interested in animal-assisted therapy, please give us a call.

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About Choices Psychotherapy

Choice is the foundation for a change. Choice speaks to the reality that there is not one right answer for all. At Choices Psychotherapy, we are committed to empowering clients and their families to identify options while assisting in creating a personal roadmap toward health and recovery.

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