With about sixty percent of American households owning a pet, chances are you grew up with a family pet in your own home. Furthermore,  you also probably did not realize the array of mental and physical health benefits associated with pet ownership. Research has shown that owning a pet has its benefits in terms of encouraging exercise and improving overall psychological health. The emotional bond that stems from interactions with your pet increases your body’s oxytocin levels, which is also known as the “feel good” hormone. Pets can even help relieve stress and anxiety, which is why some therapists offer pet therapy, which is also known as animal-assisted therapy.

What is the concept behind pet therapy?

Pet therapy is not simply owning a pet. Pet therapy is goal-oriented and is directed by a trained professional who understands the clinical and therapeutic implications of human-animal interaction. Animal-assisted therapy can range from dogs to dolphins.
Animal-assisted  therapy is not restricted to a specific type of animal, however the animal is trained appropriately for therapy to help the client ultimately achieve their goals.

What is pet therapy used for and what are the benefits?

Pet therapy can be used to cover a variety of mental or physical health problems. Some examples are listed below:
  • It was found that older adults improved their walking capabilities (in terms of speed and confidence) when they walked their pet dog on a regular basis.
  • Behavioral exchanges between a therapy pet and the therapist can serve as a model for a healthy relationship, which can in turn be applied outside of therapy to improve social skills and develop healthy connections with people.
  • Owning a pet can also help improve self-esteem as being a proud owner can contribute to a sense of purpose and increase a person’s perception of their self-worth.
  • Therapy pets can also help decrease anxiety, even those suffering from severe conditions such as PTSD.
  • Therapy dogs were found to decrease symptoms of anxiety and loneliness by 60% in college students who participated in animal-assisted therapy.
These are just a few examples of ways that animal-assisted therapy can applied.

To learn more about pet therapy, click here to browse Urban Balance’s Pet Therapy Resources.

Nauert PhD, R. (2014). Animal Therapy Can Ease College Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/10/23/animal-therapy-can-ease-college-stress/76498.html
 
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Pet Therapy Good For All Ages. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/10/01/pet-therapy-good-for-all-ages/8688.html
 
Suval, L. (2015). Pets as Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/07/29/pets-as-therapy/
 
Uyemura, B. (2013). The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-truth-about-animal-assisted-therapy/
Urban Balance prioritizes the safety of our clients and staff and will provide teletherapy counseling services.
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