The Effectiveness of Pet Therapy and Equine Assisted Therapy
As the rates of depression and anxiety soar amongst children, adolescents, college students, and adults, the waiting lists for psychiatrists and psychologists continue to grow. Instead of waiting helplessly for months on end, we should take a closer look at pet therapy and equine assisted therapy for coping, resilience, hope, and healing.
Research demonstrates that pet therapy and equine assisted therapy and the human-animal bond can have a multitude of positive effects on mood, sleep, health, and behavior.
Animals, especially dogs, cats, and horses can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, fatigue, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve cardiovascular health. For instance, interacting with a dog, cat, or a horse can elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin, which can have a calming effect on the mind and body. Stroking, hugging, or touching a calm animal can also reduce tension when stressed or anxious.
Animal Assisted Therapy Research indicates that interacting with animals can be very therapeutic for the following reasons:
- Touching and grooming animals releases an automatic relaxation response.
- Petting the animal promotes the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin- all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.
- Lowers anxiety.
- Increases relaxation and comfort.
- Reduces loneliness.
- Increases mental stimulation.
- Provides a distraction.
- Serves as a catalyst in the therapy process.
Horses in particular have seen increasing recognition and integration in the traditional mental health field, as growing evidence supports the effectiveness of their assistance in a therapeutic environment. Studies have resulted in a body of literature supporting the therapeutic value of the human-animal interaction.
Pet Therapy and Equine Assisted Therapy is being recognized as a more integral part of psychotherapy and mental health and can serve as a unique and effective intervention that can assist our children, adolescents, and adult clients in multiple social, emotional, and behavioral domains.