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:
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.
Improve communication skills
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
Stories of addiction and drug abuse have worked themselves into our culture in the form of books, music, theater and songs for centuries. Often times, a song we love is actually about addiction and drug abuse and we aren’t even aware of it until we take the time to really look at and listen to the lyrics. This isn’t surprising, considering the fact that addiction and drug use is common among singers, songwriters and musicians that we listen to on a daily basis. We also know of a multitude of extremely talented singers and members of popular bands who have died from addiction and drug overdoses., so it is not uncommon to find stories about drug and addiction in their music.
Just last month, the staff at The Redpoint Center, an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in Longmont, Colorado, shared their favorite movies about addiction and recovery. We therefore found the next logical step was for us to recount our favorite songs about addiction, drug use and recovery. The following is a summary of our musings, in no particular order, along with a link to the song and the staff member who chose it.
Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind- This song is the title track from the rock band’s self-titled debut album that was released in 1997. Despite the easy going and peppy pop sound of this song, it is actually about using crystal meth and the shiny looking outside of people who are sick and hurting on the inside.ur medical director, Dr. Honor Ashbaugh.
Under the Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers- “Under the Bridge” appears on the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s fifth album, titled Blood, Sweat, Sex and Magik. Anthony Keidis, the rock band’s lead singer, wrote the lyrics of this song to depict feelings of loneliness and despondency, and to relay the impact that a heroin addiction had on his life. This song was picked as a favorite by our clinical director, Nikki Summers, and therapist Quddus Maus.
Hurt by Nine Inch Nails- Hurt is a song that appears on Nine Inch Nail’s second studio album, The Downward Spiral, released in 1994. The song includes references to self-harm and heroin addiction. Others contend that the song acts as s suicide note written by the song’s protagonist. Nonetheless, the entire album is about a period in the singer’s life when he abused drugs and fell into a deep depression. This song, and the cover by Johnny Cash, was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s founder, Cody Gardner.
Hurt cover by Johnny Cash- In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the song “Hurt”. Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails lead singer, said he was flattered when Johnny Cash wanted to cover this song, but was worried that it was a “bit gimmicky”. After seeing the video, however, which was best music video of the year by Grammy’s and CMA Awards, Reznor liked what he saw.
Soul to Squeeze by The Red Hot Chili Peppers- “Soul to Squeeze” was released as a B-side on the The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge.” It was then released as a single in 1993. “Soul to Squeeze” Is thought by some as depicting the entire mental process between addiction and recovery. It focuses heavily on what recovery has to offer rather than glorifying or self-deprecating the addictive thought process. This was picked a asfavorite by The Redpoint Center’s Drew Dyer..
Lost in the Cold by Twiddle- “Lost in the Cold” was also picked as a favorite by Drew Dyer. In his own words, the song reminds him of “grabbing onto the fear of recovery and facing it rather than hiding from it.”
Heroin by The Velvet Underground- The song “Heroin” was released by The Velvet Underground on their 1967 debut album called The Velvet Underground & Nico. The song was written by Lou Reed and beautifully depicts heroin use and abuse. The song “Heroin” neither endorses nor condemns the use of heroin, which has made it a troubling song in the eyes of some listeners. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s wellness coordinator, Shane Niemeyer.
Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth, by The Dandy Warhols- This song was released in 1997 on the second studio album released by The Dandy Warhols, called The Dandy Warhols Come Down. The song, according to front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor, was written about his girlfriend (at the time) who got addicted to heroin while he was on tour. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center therapist, Desmond Cohen.
Down on the Bottom by The New Basement Tapes- Down on the Bottom was the first song recorded by The New Basement Tapes on their album titled “Lost on the River.” The lyrics were written by Bob Dylan in 1967, and are interpreted to be about drinking and hitting rock bottom with nowhere to go but up. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s Katie Fischer.
You’ll Never Walk Alone by The Dropkick Murphy’s- This song first appeared in a 1945 musical called Carousel. It has been covered by many different bands and musicians, and appeared on The Dropkick Murphys album “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory” when it was released in 2017. This song, explains bassist and vocalist Ken Casey, came on when he was leaving a wake for a friend who had overdosed on opiates. It summed up to him how he was feeling at the time- sad but knowing that there is hope. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s therapist Stephanie Winkler.
Lover I Don’t Have to Love by Bright Eyes- “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” was released by the American, Indie Rock band as a single in 2002. The Redpoint Center’s family advocate, Taylor Cole, picked this song as a favorite about addiction and shared her words. “I listened to this song throughout the throws of my addiction when I was touring with a band the year before I got sober. I knew I was an addict and I was not ready to get sober. I wanted to put myself into so much pain it would force me to get sober or I would just not make it. Every time I listen to it, I remember that feeling and am grateful that I don’t have to live like that anymore.”
Staying Alive by Cursive- The song “Staying Alive”, by Cursive, was also picked by Taylor Cole as her favorite song about recover. She quotes, “Bad ass song that makes my insides feel warm and fuzzy. Choosing life and looking forward.”
Suicidal Thoughts by Biggie Smalls- “Suicidal Thoughts” was the last song on the debut album, “Ready to Die”, released by Notorious B.I.G. in 1994. Although not strictly about addiction, the song was listed as very meaningful to The Redpoint Center’s founder, Cody Gardner, who states that he “used to write the verses of this song on all his notebooks” while in rehab.
Alive by Sia- “Alive” is the lead single from the Australian singer songwriter’s 7th studio album, titled “This is Acting.” The Redpoint Center’s admissions director, Rachael Messaros, notes that this song is one of her favorites about recovery. In her words, “On my 6th sobriety birthday I put all of my songs on shuffle, and this song came on. I cried because I was like, holy shit, I survived.”
Billy Walker, by Israel Darling- Billy Walker was released in on the album by Israel Darling titled “Dinosaur Bones & Mechanical Hands.” This song was picked as a favorite by one of The Redpoint Center’s therapists, Jay Fullam. In his own words, “I heard this song when I got sober at an open mic. It really stuck with me and I listened to it regularly during my first year of sobriety.”
Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young–“Needle and The Damage Done” first appeared on the Harvest album which was released in 1972. This song was written by Neil Young to describe the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew, including his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate, Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of a later album, “Tonight’s the Night”, that expresses Young’s grief over the subsequent overdose deaths of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, who was a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s Executive Director, Donnie Hagenbart.
Rehab by Amy Winehouse- Rehab appeared on Winehouse’s second and final album, Back to Black, in 2006. The lyrics are in fact autobiographical, and describe Winehouse’s refusal to enter into a rehabilitation clinic for substance abuse and addiction. The song won three Grammy awards at the 50th Winehouse, as most know, subsequently died of alcohol poisoning on July 23rd, 2011. This song was picked as a favorite by one of the Redpoint Center’s adolescent therapists, Bridget Camacho.
Mansion by NF- The song Mansion, by NF (which stands for Nathan Feurstein) is a song on this American rapper’s debut album, titled the same, which was released on March 31, 2015. This song was picked by The Redpoint Center’s Samantha Jackson. In her own words, “I like this song because for so long I was in my head about a lot of things and I thought keeping that to myself was a lot safer than talking about it or getting help. Also, I thought using was a good way to take care of my problems, but it just acted as a temporary fix. This song is a good reminder to myself that I don’t want to be in such a dark place again. It also puts me in the mindset of when I was still using and how much I didn’t like what I was doing.”
We hope you enjoy this compilation of The Redpoint Center staff’s favorite songs about addiction, drug abuse and recover. If you think you or your loved one might have an addiction or problem with drug or alcohol use, The Redpoint Center can help. Please call us with any questions, as we’re here to help.
It is a common occurrence amongst therapists to joke that if they bring their clients to tears then they know they’ve done something right. We believe that laughter can be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.
Other reasons why laughing is therapeutic:
Connection: Laughter increases one’s ability to be close with others, and is an expression most often used in a social context. We are 30 times more likely to laugh if we are with another person. Cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott said we laugh “to show people that you understand them, that you agree with them, and you are part of the same group with them. You’re laughing to show them you like them, you might even love them. Laughter is doing all that emotional work for you.”
Nervous System Regulation: laughter reduces sympathetic nervous system activity (fight or flight response) and increases parasympathetic system activity, which can relax the whole body, thus reducing the impact of stress on the body and mind.
Read more about laughter and the nervous system here.
Perspective: it offers a new way to look at a situation and
“Humor and laughter can shift perspective and change the way the our mind views or experiences an event.”
Emotional health, but physical health have been linked to laughter as well. Norman Cousins, who wrote Anatomy of an Illness (1979), describes his experience using laughter to help him live a longer, and more pain free life while suffering from an illness affecting the immune system. According to Cousins:
Releases endorphins in the brain that fight physical pain.
Protects our immune systems.
Increases antibodies that fight infection.
Increases natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells attack cancerous cells in the body.
Improves cardiovascular health
Activates neuro-chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, acting as a natural antidepressant.
And one final thought; did you know there is something called “Laughter Yoga”? Make sure to check out this Ted Talk by Dr. Madan Kataria, the pioneer of Laughter Yoga, which is now a worldwide practice for improving overall health and wellbeing.