Talk to anyone who adores animals, and they’ll be quick to tell you how much unconditional love and joy they get from their furry pals on a daily basis. Every pet owner can agree that this feel-good combo can warm anyone’s heart. It’s due to these reasons that mental health professionals in the U.S. are now also acknowledging the benefits of pet-induced emotions and the good feeling they provide to help people who are suffering from mental health issues.
Today, animal therapy is commonly used by health professionals to help improve a patient’s emotional, social, and mental functioning with the support of animals. The most common therapy animals used include dogs, cats, horses and small reptiles. If you need a therapy animal, here are few things that you should know.
Animals Can Help in Therapy
Emotional support animals are different from service animals. Unlike service animals that are specifically trained to perform specific tasks or work for the benefit of an individual who is suffering from a physical disability, emotional support dogs or other therapy pets are widely used in hospitals, schools, nursing and retirement homes and disaster areas to help people recover from mental disorders or other health problems.
It is important to understand that the emotional support that is provided by therapy pets allows you to deal with emotional, physical and social challenges that might affect the quality of your life. While all dogs can offer some emotional support to their owner, emotional support dogs have to be legally considered and prescribed by a licensed mental health expert.
So, You Need Help: What Now?
The most widely used therapy pets are dogs. The specific type of pet that you could choose needs to have the right personality traits to help it work in challenging environments like nursing homes, hospitals and schools with special needs. For instance, if you’ve decided to work with an emotional support dog, it needs to be patient, calm, friendly and lovable.
As reported by guides on pet therapy, some of the most popular dog breeds to use as emotional support animals include:
- Labrador retrievers
- German shepherds
- Saint Bernards
- Golden retrievers
- French bulldogs
Mental Health Benefits of a Therapy Pet
There are different types of benefits when it comes to owning an emotional support animal. These include mental, social and physical benefits as discussed below:
Genuine support and comfort
Whether you’re suffering from depression, stress, anxiety or different types of fears, getting an emotional support animal can help you feel more comfortable and get a sense of calm. Over 15 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from depression. That’s why many medical experts are recommending emotional support animals as part of a treatment program when it comes to approaching and responding to depression-related issues.
Spending time with your pet is reason enough to make you feel good. Most people suffering from mental issues or those trying to recover from physical injuries often suffer from stress and other symptoms associated with their condition. An emotional support animal can help in easing the feeling of stress and help you build a stronger bond with people close to you.
Increased motivation and self-esteem
Emotional support animals have been proven to give their owners a sense of purpose and help them feel more inspired to engage in their day to day activities and recover from mental-related conditions. For instance, taking your dog for a walk is good for you and your dog, and this alone can help you boost your mood by releasing feel-good hormones.
Emotional support animals are not suitable for everyone. Therapy pets are meant to provide support for people who are suffering from various mental-related conditions. There are different qualifications for owning a therapy pet you should look into. Before considering an ESA, it’s important to consult your doctor about this type of treatment.