Canine Assisted Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Addiction

Canine Assisted Psychotherapy occurs when therapists partner with therapy dogs to enhance the therapeutic experience.  As an Animal Assisted Therapist, I have seen the many ways that dogs can enhance the therapeutic environment through the human animal bond.

 

Research has shown that Canine Assisted Psychotherapy can benefit people with:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Addiction
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Treatment Resistance

 

Dogs also provide unconditional love and acceptance and can promote health and healing when used in therapy. This type of experience provides clients with the opportunity to find self-love, self-acceptance, and can decrease stress and anxiety related to the therapeutic process.

 

Dogs are unique in that they provide immediate feedback to the people they interact with.  They can reflect emotions and in doing so can help people to identify their emotions and practice emotion regulation. This allows clients to practice healthy coping skills and emotion regulation skills within the therapeutic setting with the support of their therapist.

 

In general, the therapeutic experience can be stressful and overwhelming.  The presence of a therapy dog can help to decrease the anxiety clients feel during therapy.  Lastly, the physical activity and dog training that is associated with Canine Assisted Psychotherapy can help to improve physical health, communication, and frustration tolerance.

 

Some of the benefits of Canine Assisted Therapy include the following:

  • Strengthen the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client
  • Increase self confidence
  • Improve psychosocial functioning
  • Decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
  • Decrease Stress
  • Improve communication skills
  • Better Mood
  • Improve anger management
  • Better physical health

 

As an Animal Assisted Therapist, I have seen the many ways that dogs can enhance the therapeutic environment through the human animal bond. The therapeutic experience can be stressful and overwhelming.  The presence of a therapy dog can help to decrease the anxiety clients feel during therapy.

 

Overall, Canine Assisted Psychotherapy can be a beneficial therapeutic practice for many people.  However, it is not for everyone.  Canine Assisted Psychotherapy will only be beneficial if the client is interested in dogs or enjoys dogs. It is important to ensure that both the client and the therapy dog can remain safe and benefit from the therapeutic encounter prior to engaging in canine assisted interventions.

 

The Redpoint Center is a substance abuse treatment center in Longmont, Colorado.  We are lucky to have our own therapy dog named Parker.  Parker is generally in the office on most days of the week and is happy to sit in on a client’s therapy session if he isn’t busy chewing on his toys.

 

For more information on Canine Assisted Psychotherapy please reference the following research:

  • Incorporating animal-assisted therapy in mental health treatments for adolescents: A systematic review of canine assisted psychotherapy

Melanie G. Jones, Simon M. Rice, Susan M. Cotton

  • Research on Benefits of Canine-Assisted Therapy for Adults in Nonmilitary Settings

Janet S. Knisely, Sandra B. Barker, and Randolph T. Barker

  • Patient benefit of dog-assisted interventions in health care: a systematic review Martina Lundqvis, Per Carlsson, Rune Sjödahl, Elvar Theodorssonand   Lars-Åke Levin

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, Mental Health problems, The Redpoint Center is here to help. The Redpoint Center treats both adults and youth struggling with addiction and alcohol. To learn more about our Longmont Drug Rehab, call 888-509-3153.

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