Anyone who has ever had a pet knows the healing power of animals. Having a pet makes you feel needed and loved. A pet provides you with a responsibility outside yourself. Animals lower your blood pressure, relax you and help you cope with stress.
It should come as little surprise to hear that pets can be great partners in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Rehab statistics regarding pets as part of treatment are minimal, but as animal therapy becomes more popular, they are sure to show that pets are a positive part of addiction treatment.
Animal-Assisted Therapy In Addiction Rehab
Using animals in therapy isn’t a new concept, but it hasn’t been applied to addiction treatment for very long. Therapy animals (which are most often dogs but can also include cats, horses and other animals) are often used in situations and settings where people need comfort.
Nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and various types of residential homes allow certified therapy animals to be brought in to bring comfort, stress relief and a distraction to patients and residents.
Drug rehab statistics do not have much to say about animal therapy playing a role in treatment. This is changing, though, as facilities and caregivers realize just how beneficial animals can be to any healing process, including addiction treatment.
Benefits Of Pet-Therapy
Spending time with and petting an animal has many benefits, including:
- lowered blood pressure
- reduced anxiety
- a stabilized mood
- better anger management
- improved self-esteem and
- lower tension and stress
All of these benefits can help an addict in recovery heal and can also reduce the risk of having a relapse.
Are There Any Inpatient Rehabs That Accept Pets?
Rehab facilities are using animal-assisted therapy more and more in treatment for addiction. Field trips to visit therapy horses or visits to the rehab facility from therapy dogs are becoming more common and are great ways to help addicts feel better. However, most rehab centers will still not allow a personal pet to come along for a patient’s stay.
This doesn’t mean it is impossible. There are some enlightened locations that realize just how important pets are in people’s lives. Therapy animals are great, but to have your beloved pet beside you as you get treatment is even better. If you search, you can find facilities that will allow you to bring your companion animal.
If you’re wondering what happens in drug rehab and you’re nervous about going in for a residential stay, knowing that animals will be a part of the program can be a big relief. Animals bring comfort and a feeling of unconditional love and loyalty. They won’t judge you and will make you feel better just by letting you pet them.
If you can bring your own pet to rehab and therapy, you are lucky. If you can’t, you can still benefit from spending time with the dogs and other animals trained to work as animal therapists.
Healing Is Possible!
24 Oct 2014
If you have ever had a pet—a dog, cat, lizard or even just a goldfish, you know that they can help you feel calm, joyful, loved and needed. Caring for an animal and loving and being loved by one is powerful. Using animals in therapy sessions, or even just to calm patients’ nerves in a dentist’s office, has long been a tool in the arsenal of health care providers. With this in mind, consider getting a pet to help the recovering addict in your household. The responsibility of caring for an animal and the unconditional love it will provide could be greatly beneficial.
To understand why having a pet could help the recovering addict you care about, it’s important to learn a little bit about how therapists have used animals to help patients. Patients with a range of illnesses and conditions can benefit from having an animal involved in therapy. This includes children who have suffered from abuse, people with mental health conditions, patients undergoing painful and stressful medical procedures, people facing the stress and fear of terminal illness and even addicts.
Research has uncovered what humans have long known: being around animals is good for us. Even for healthy people, animals make us feel happier and more relaxed. We even know from research that simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure dramatically. Being around and touching animals has also been shown to raise levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which makes us feel happier and more loving.
Bringing A Pet Home For A Recovering Addict
With the benefits of being around animals in mind, consider bringing a pet into your household if you are caring for a recovering addict. A dog or cat, or even a bird or fish, has the potential to bring joy, purpose and meaning back into the life of your loved one. You can choose the level of care and responsibility needed by selecting the right pet. A dog is a great choice if your loved one is active and capable of taking care of a dog’s many needs. If your loved one doesn’t seem ready for a dog, a cat or other pet could be a good choice.
If you decide bring a pet home, get your recovering addict involved every step of the way. Let her help in the decision-making and learn with her how to care for the new pet. Being a part of the process will give her a sense of responsibility, a new purpose and a greater sense of self-worth. The love that she gets in return will be a powerful motivator to stay clean and sober.
Pets Are A Responsibility
As you make the choice about getting a pet to help your loved one, keep in mind that pets are a responsibility. A pet needs a person to care for him and will depend on that person. If you are unsure whether your recovering addict is up for the task, be prepared to step in and care for the animal and all his needs. If you are not prepared to do this, you may not be ready to welcome home a pet.
Rescue Pets – Tools For Healing And Recovery
Animals are powerful tools for healing. To help the recovering addict in your household, consider rescuing a pet. Check out your local animal shelter to find a cat, dog or other animal that needs someone as much as your loved one needs to care for a pet. You may both be surprised at how much healing power comes in a small, furry package.
We all have those voices in our heads—the critic, the tempter, the downer, the voices telling us we’ve never been anything and we shouldn’t even try. But in order to want sobriety and progress in recovery, we need to learn to silence the voices of opposition. But how do you get past the voices in your head that keep you in dysfunctional and destructive patterns?
Identify The Negative Voices
It helps to begin by identifying the messages flying around in your head. Whose voice is the one that you hear most strongly and loudly in your mind? Who is the one, though you are an adult, who is still criticizing you and tearing you down and insisting you conform to his or her way of life, dysfunctional as it may be? Listen to what you hear when you think you need to take a drink or get high. Who or what is controlling you without your permission?
Parents’ voices ring in our ears though they may be long dead. Through their words and actions they imposed their view of the world, relationships and love when we were in our youngest and most impressionable and vulnerable stages of life. We took that input at face value. We didn’t question if it was right or wrong or sane. And today, as adults, many of us are still living our lives guided by those dysfunctional, damaging beliefs.
Or maybe it was a harsh coach or teacher or a relentless sibling or school bully. Without realizing it we are still hearing these critical and insulting voices in our heads. We are still subconsciously dominated by the people whose opinion we may not even respect and whose approval we no longer covet. We need to begin to set ourselves free of these mental tyrants.
How To Let Go And Live For Ourselves
How do we learn to let go of others’ perceptions of the world? How do we live for ourselves rather than for the whims of some undefined them? We do it by beginning to intentionally perceive our own world. How do we think about things? What do we think we are capable of, regardless of what others have told us? What do we want out of life? What are the things we believe are most worth living for and pursuing? As an adult, you have the freedom to make your own decisions, have your own opinions and live in a way that is pleasing and healthy for you. What does that look like?
One woman, in a loving relationship with a man, was afraid to express her needs or her emotions for fear of being a burden. Her partner, however, didn’t view her emotions as anything other than valid and worthy of consideration and discussion. Still she feared being the “difficult woman” because of how her father viewed women and their needs and the way he conceptualized their motives as self-serving. But this experience was her father’s, not a universal truth about women and men.
As she grew up and desired to have a healthy and functional romantic relationship, she realized that she would need to put her father’s perceptions and prejudices about the world and relationships out of her mind in order to experience the world and her life as her own. Her father’s experience was not hers; she was not a demanding woman or self-serving. She did, however have emotions and needs that her partner was healthy enough to want to honor. She learned that not all women were self-serving or demanding and that not all men viewed them that way.
Evaluate What’s Helpful And What’s Not
As we progress through life and we see our frequent hang-ups, and the beliefs that don’t serve us, we have to begin to ask whose voice it is that we are hearing. Who is motivating the feelings of fear and apprehension we feel? Is it a parent telling you that you’ll never have what it takes? Or that you have never been good enough? Is it a competitive sibling making fun of your interests and talents? Is it a judgmental “friend” who was only trying to give you some helpful advice?
It is time to begin to evaluate that which is not helpful and then to let it go so that you may live free—free to determine your own life, free to recover and free to recognize and realize your own potential. How many of us drank or practiced our addictions because we couldn’t stand ourselves and needed an escape from our own reality? Or because we didn’t believe ourselves worthy of much better than playing out our lives as drunks and just getting by? Identifying the negative voices supporting those damaging beliefs can help us to see that we have been living a lie and are indeed worthy of so much more.
How Therapy Can Help
These life-controlling beliefs are deeply ingrained and they are hard to overcome—in many cases therapy may even be helpful in figuring out where the roots lie. Between our 12-step work and therapy, we gain the tools to uproot those old beliefs and toss them onto the compost pile. Your mind is your own; don’t give it over to the voices that only seek to tear you down. Live the victorious life that was meant for you.
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