Animal-Assisted Therapies

illustration of a caveman holding a spear standiung next to a wolfResearch has shown that interacting with animals, particularly in a structured therapeutic setting, can have a dramatic impact on an individual’s sense of well-being, stress levels, and overall mental health. The human/animal connection goes back thousands of years in human history, with animals providing human beings with numerous tangible and intangible benefits. Recent studies have documented the positive effect of this relationship in a measurable reduction of stress levels and a significant psychological impact, especially for individuals who have closed themselves off from human relationships and their own emotional states. Animal-assisted therapies can allow these individuals to open themselves up and examine critical issues that relate to their substance abuse or mental health problems.

Anyone who has ever owned a pet or spent a significant amount of time around one understands the inherent stress-relief they offer. Their unconditional love can often make us feel like they are our best and perhaps only friend in the world. This understanding is what prompted Seaside Palm Beach to create a residential rehab program where our clients are allowed to bring their pets to our facility.

Going through the rehab process removes patients from their everyday lives. Permitting their pets to stay with them gives them some comfort in familiarity, while also giving them the responsibility to care for another life. This promotes the type of selflessness and self-awareness needed to succeed in addiction recovery. The pets themselves serve as forms of rehabilitation. Oftentimes, it is best for patients to spend time with pets in therapy, as opposed to opening up to friends and family. Pets offer a non-judgmental ear that recovering substance abusers need.

photo of a young female patient sitting on a fence petting a horseIn addition to our pet assisted therapy, we also utilize equine therapy to make mental health assessments and treatment recommendations based on interactions with our horses. Depending on the time year, some of our clients may choose to spend time with a horse or a group of horses and learn to form positive relationships and healthy methods of interaction. Studies have shown that many underlying mental illnesses respond positively to this type of treatment, particularly for individuals who have difficulty communicating their feelings in a clinical setting.