Service animals are playing an increasing role in the daily lives of many people, but they are also being used as an effective addiction treatment. Canine-assisted therapy, or using dogs in an alcohol or drug rehab, is particularly popular because most people adore these four-legged creatures and their presence seems to provide some unique benefits in an addiction treatment environment.

What is Canine Therapy?

Canine therapy is a form of animal-assisted therapy, specifically where dogs used to help those with mental disorders can assist in the treatment process. Also referred to as animal-assisted intervention, this type of therapy is a planned and goal-oriented intervention that is directed by a trained professional. Each program is different, but canines used in therapy are trained for obedience and agility. Sessions may vary in length and participants are able to engage with the dogs in a variety of ways, such as through play, petting, walking, and grooming. Rehab clients are not forced to participate in canine therapy, but it is an option that many choose due to its benefits.

How Canine Therapy is Beneficial in Addiction Treatment

By their nature, dogs are attentive, comforting, and accepting animals. This is something that can be a tremendous benefit to a client that has experienced trauma or is having difficulty with self-esteem thanks to substance abuse issues. Some of the top ways that canine-assisted therapy can be beneficial in addiction treatment include:
  • Boosts confidence
  • Improves mood and promotes positive emotions
  • Supports the expression or development of empathic skills
  • Eases feelings of anxiety
  • Enhances communication and social interaction skills
  • Reduces feelings associated with anger, sadness, loneliness, and insecurity
There are not many research studies that deal specifically with canine-assisted therapy and addiction treatment, but there are a few. One study conducted by researchers reviewed patient reactions and the benefits of canine-assisted therapy at a residential treatment center in New York. Three dogs were brought to the treatment center that had been certified as “therapy dogs” and that had also been classified as rescue dogs. Fifty-six clients were offered canine-assisted treatment weekly in sessions that lasted roughly an hour each. Sixty-four percent of clients participated in the treatment. The study concluded that the patients who did interact with the dogs received some specific benefits. Those participants were more likely to voluntarily reveal information about their feelings of low self-esteem, painful past losses, and the consequences of their drug and alcohol use. The clients also opened up about relationship and family dynamic specifics as well as details about their personal history, including past violence.
Woman petting a dog.

Ask your addiction treatment program if they offer canine-assisted therapy.

Combining Canine Therapy with an Addiction Treatment Program

If you would like to attend an addiction treatment program that offers canine-assisted therapy, you should speak with The Recovery Village. Our alcohol and drug therapy in Umatilla, FL offers clients the highest level of care. We provide comprehensive addiction treatment services that include traditional and holistic options, including canine-assisted treatment. Our addiction specialists will speak to you about your needs and current situation and will explore with you the best program designed to produce positive outcomes. Contact us now to discuss your admissions options.
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