Can Pets Help Aid In Recovery?

Can Pets Help Aid In Recovery? | Transcend Recovery Community

Pets have shown to be a tremendous help to children growing up, teaching them about responsibility, the importance of compassion and empathy, and helping them maintain a positive attitude through emotional hardships, creating stronger adults with a better self-esteem.

Yet pets also continue to have psychological benefits for adults. It’s true that man’s best friend is a furry mammal – the relationship between a person and their pet is far less complicated than that between two humans, but that doesn’t make it any less significant.

For those in the field of psychiatry, pets offer the ability to act not just as best friends, but as miniature therapists. From addiction to depression, disability, pain and anxiety, therapy dogs help countless people deal with the realities of their condition by bringing a smile to their face.

Make Sure You’re Ready

If you’re getting professional help for your addiction or any other existing mental conditions, then ask your doctor or therapist about pet therapy. If you’re not seeking professional help, then in the very least get a professional opinion.

Pet therapy is an effective form of therapy for depression, anxiety, and even for physical issues such as chronic pain. Yet pets – even therapy dogs – aren’t for everyone, and the dream of owning a furry friend to confide to in every sad moment is also accompanied by the struggles and hardships that come with being responsible for another living being.

Understand the Responsibility

Having a pet isn’t all roses and sunshine. Dogs and cats need to be taught how to take care of “business” in the house without stinking the whole place up – and some breeds, especially among dogs, are a little slower at that. They need to be bathed and combed, taken to the vet, trained and socialized. Dogs have a small window for socialization and desensitization in their puppy days – beyond that, a dog can be prone to developing phobias and anxiety issues due to new and unforeseen violent stimuli, such as fireworks, loud thunderstorms, and more.

Therapy animals are trained to help you, rather than cause you problems like this, but if you either aren’t eligible for a therapy animal or would rather get a puppy of your own, then knowing what you’re in for is crucial.

Benefits of Animal Companionship

The biggest two benefits of owning a pet, regardless of whether they’re trained or not, is a combination of love and responsibility. Dogs and cats alike will love you no matter who you are, and they’ll have no qualms about it. They don’t judge, don’t carry a negative bias, and won’t make comments on how you look or how much (or little) you might be earning.

They care about what really matters in life – sharing food, playing around a lot, and giving kisses. A pet can help not only brighten up your day, but brighten up your life in general, bringing a lot of humor and comedy into your everyday routine while reminding you how important it is to care for and love those dearest to us.

Because having a pet is a demanding task – even when it’s a trained therapy dog – pet ownership also translates into accountability in the world of addiction recovery. Accountability to others is important in early recovery, because it helps you justify your sobriety and long-term abstinence with something beyond than yourself – the survival, wellbeing and happiness of another living thing.

What to Consider Before Getting a Pet

  • Be financially-prepared. Pets aren’t cheap, even if you’re picking up a rescue. Be sure never to choose a dog from a puppy mill, or even a breeder (unless you’re specifically looking for a show dog). Too often, dogs are bred for profit, sold to inexperienced owners and abandoned on the street, only to eventually be captured and put down. There are shelters all over the country full of dogs looking for a home. Even if you can offer one, remember that dogs come with the cost of time, food, veterinary products and vet visits.
  • Have the right space. Dogs in particular require a lot of space – some breeds do well in smaller spaces, especially lap dogs and smaller breeds such as pugs, while other dogs require much more room. Border Collies and other such breeds are highly energetic and not recommended for anyone in the city. Doberman are an example of a large breed that loves to lounge around, but even they require daily exercise and regular walks.
  • Understand and know the animal. Different animals have different needs. Dogs and cats have different dietary restrictions, preferences, and behavior. Learn your animal and your breed inside-out, and learn to recognize what their behavior really means. It can go a long way to fostering a stronger relationship between you two.
  • Love them no matter what. Just like people, animals aren’t perfect – though some might argue they’re damn close. Having and loving a pet also means knowing when it’s time to stop being angry and forgive. It’s useless to hold a grudge against your pet, and it’ll do nothing but hurt the both of you.

Your New Best Friend

A dog or a cat can be an emotional rock in times of personal hardship, more than even most people. Domestic dogs and cats were bred for centuries to work with humans, offer companionship, and keep us safe. We’ve grown up alongside these animals for countless generations in cultures all across the world, and both dogs and cats have the innate knowledge to understand our emotions, feelings and behavior.

The bond between man and animal is extremely strong – and extremely beneficial. Research shows that caring for and having a pet while going through depression can greatly reduce symptoms and speed up emotional improvements. Emotional volatility is nothing new to those suffering from addiction, but it’s especially egregious within the first few months of recovery. While the top priority is making sure you have the space, time and funds to keep a pet healthy, living with a pet in the first few months can really help you keep your sanity and hone your ability to love and care for others again.

There will be many times when you’ll be very angry with your pet. They’ll test your patience and push you to the edge of frustration. And that’s the greatest test of all – holding back the urge to lash out, and instead focusing on your love for your furry roommate and the antics they use to keep you busy.

At the end of the day, however, the keyword is accountability. A cat or a dog is a living, breathing animal – they have feelings, needs, and quirks. They require direction, attention, entertainment, affection and food. It’s on you to make sure your pet is happy – but if you make sure of that, you can completely guarantee it to yourself that they’ll make you happy in return.

Pet Therapy Can Support Your Sobriety

Pet Therapy Can Support Your Sobriety | Transcend Recovery Community

Pet therapy is a new and growing field called Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). It is a goal-directed intervention therapy that involves the use of an animal. A trained dog, for instance, is incorporated into a recovering addict’s treatment plan as an essential part of an individual’s recovery. Pet therapy might be a modality to consider as a part of your recovery, especially if you’re an animal lover.

In fact, you might experience pet therapy during your drug and alcohol treatment. It’s possible that the therapist you’re working with uses animals as part of his or her treatment. Many therapists today, whether they are in the drug and alcohol field or not, use animals to facilitate therapy. As you can imagine, dogs, cats, and other animals can immediately lift one’s spirits.  It’s comforting to experience a connection with an animal and feel their affection. It’s easy to have an experience of love with a dog or cat, especially if love and kindness are not available in other areas of life.

On the other hand, you might already have a pet. You might already get love and affection from an animal that accompanies you in your life. If this is the case, perhaps you might want to consider how your pet can support your sobriety. You may want to reflect on the ways that your dog or cat can assist you when you need it, especially in areas where your dog or cat isn’t yet supporting you but could.

Sure, your dog or cat or other animal can support your emotionally. However, an animal can also facilitate completing your daily tasks. For instance, you may be able to benefit from having a service animal. The pet you have now might be able to serve this role for you, if you feel you might benefit from it. Many adults have disabilities that make it difficult to accomplish necessary daily tasks. In these cases, a dog can facilitate accomplishing those tasks that are difficult.

You should know that a pet does not need to be certified in any way. Certification is actually not a requirement of the ADA.  There are only two requirements: the disability of the owner and the training and behavior of the dog to perform certain tasks. If you’re struggling with some life tasks, either because of an addiction or another mental or physical impairment, your impairment must be a documented one. Furthermore, it needs to be considered a “disability” under the ADA. This is the first step in acquiring a service animal that might support you in accomplishing daily living tasks.

If having a service animal sounds attractive, you should keep in mind the following:

A big challenge for those with disabilities is having their dog adequately trained. Although many dogs can be trained, some just do not have the temperament to behave well amidst the stressors (noises, children, distractions) of being in public. Furthermore, there are minimum standards that service dogs must meet in order to be officially considered a service animal. These standards outline the minimum skills and characteristics of a service animal.

Since most people do not know how to effectively train their dog to accomplish certain tasks, they hire organizations who can provide this service for them. Some of these organizations will not only train dogs but they will also provide the owner with identification cards which indicate that the dog has been trained to be a service dog for their animal. Such identification can come in handy when an owner needs their dog to accompany them during travel or into certain public places.

At the same time, you might simply want to stick with visiting with a pet during your drug counseling or therapy session. There’s no question that animals are uplifting, loving, and fun. Whether you enjoy the presence and comfort of an animal at home or during drug treatment, they can support your sobriety by keeping your heart open and your spirits high.


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Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part Two)

Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part Two) | Transcend Recovery Community

The first article of this series, Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part One), began a list of holistic approaches that are being used more and more in sober living homes and recovery treatment centers around the world. We started off with acupuncture, art therapy, and deep breathing. Below will continue with such methods as meditation, journaling, and hypnosis.

Deep Breathing can be an essential tool, particularly right in those intense moments, and perhaps in a moment of craving. One of the most effective forms of deep breathing is square breathing. Someone using this method breathes in for the count of four, holds the breath for a count of four, breathes out for a count of four, and holds the breath for a count of four, and continuing that cycle until he or she feels relaxed.

Exercise can be an essential ingredient on the path to sober living. Physical activity can release endorphins, which alone help to boost positive feelings. Exercise can also help with the health of the brain, including making new neural connections, which alone can facilitate enduring change. Furthermore, to experience these benefits from exercise, you don’t have to run three miles a day; simply taking a walk regularly can boost mental health

Guided Imagery – This is a treatment technique that uses imagination and focus to direct attention on the nervous system, particularly the part of the body that might hold the answer to one’s issue. It can be used on those who have both psychological and physical illnesses, such as addiction.

Herbal Therapy is a form of treatment that uses herbs, which re natural botanical substances that affect the body. Many herbs have long been used in detoxification. For instance, the herb Kadzu has the potential for moderating alcohol abuse. Milk thistle can improve liver function, and Kava and Valerian can be used to treat insomnia, which often accompanies withdrawal.

Homeopathy is a non-toxic use of highly diluted remedies that are used to treat illnesses. They are considered to stimulate a person’s bodily system in a way that allows them to deal with stress and illness more efficiently. They can be useful during an individual’s road to sober living and during their withdrawal periods.

Hypnosis is a state of deep attention, which is induced by a therapist. The mind is highly receptive to suggestion and therefore can be used to help a person reach their goal for living sober.

Ideal Model Imagery – In this treatment modality, the clinician asks a depressed teen or adult to imagine what it would be like in an ideal situation. For example, an intervention might be, “Imagine what your life would be like if you were not depressed?” or “Imagine what circumstances and situations you would find yourself in if you were not depressed.”

Journaling can be a healing practice for those striving for sober living. By sitting in a designated place each week or each day write down your experiences, writing can become a healing practice. Really, it’s not the writing that is healing; instead, it is the relationship that you build with yourself as a result of having a writing practice. As you, another part of you is listening and offering compassion and a hug

Meditation is a very calming practice that can also produce healing experiences. Although meditation might be difficult at first, the challenge at the beginning is worth the rewards. By sharpening one’s focus, the heart can open and healing can take place.

Pet Therapy is a new and growing field called Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). It is a goal-directed intervention therapy that involves the use of an animal. A trained dog, for instance, is incorporated into the treatment plan as an essential part of an individual’s sober living recovery.

Perhaps as these forms of holistic approaches become more and more popular, they will be a part of a regular sober living program. For now, anyone interested in holistic recovery might have to look for them – but they’re out there!