Emotional Support Animals
Leaving treatment can be frightening, with it comes mass amounts of anxiety and apprehension. Like any other new adventure, it is easier to do with someone by your side. One of the most trusty and loyal companions a person can have, is an emotional support animal. Service animals are not limited to the seeing or hearing impaired. As more research is conducted it is becoming ever clear the vast benefits of animals to many forms of recovery.
In the 1800’s Florence Nightingale noted the immediate and substantial positive feedback children burdened with anxiety had to the addition of a pet to their lives. Sigmund Freud realized how his patients would open up more during therapy when the office dog would join their session. Animals, dogs in particular give off a sense of security. Sometimes all it takes is being in the presence of an animal for blood pressure to lower, and anxiety to subside. It has been found that simply watching a fish swim has an extensive calming effect.
More and more professional settings are beginning to add animal therapy into their curriculums. Spaces such as nursing homes, prisons, schools, and psychiatric facilities are all utilizing the unique attributes animals bring to recovery and wellbeing. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers are the latest to join the growing trend. Most twelve step programs suggest abandoning all toxic relationships. Having the companionship of an emotional support animal allows someone entering recovery to feel less alone and more self-confident.
On the hard days, having to care for a pet is a reason to get out of bed. Pets are able to offer a form of love that humans are incapable of. Addicts oftentimes feel a lot of shame, and that the world is judging them when they are reintegrating into society. Animals have the unique ability to offer unconditional love without judgement, disappointment, and enabling; but instead unwavering devotion and empathy. Owning a pet can make you a better person as they demand personal honesty and responsibility.
Impaired social skills are often a consequence of addiction. Having a furry aide grants the opportunity to experiment with communal approaches. Animals are generally relational and will respond to human temperament. If an approach is too stringent, they will react accordingly. With a pet, you are encouraged to become more active, visit new places, and meet new people naturally. Having the competency to build and grow emotional connections is a vital role to long term recovery. Emotional support animals are the perfect first step.
In 1989 the Delta Society began certifying dogs for emotional support. Today, almost any animal can get its emotional support certification. Most common are matured dogs and horses. While horses are excellent for establishing trust and respect, they do demand a high level of commitment. If the hyperactivity of a dog is too much for one to handle, small animals such as rabbits or cats are suggested. Cats are an exquisite choice for those intimidated by canines.
If unable to provide such rigorous caretaking, hamsters are an alternative emotional support option. If an individual is immobile, cockatoos are ideal companions as they are caged and verbally responsive. If someone suffers from regular bouts of anxiety, snakes are exceptional pets as they are attractive to look at and distract your mind as they crawl through your fingers. Snakes are able to be trained to notice warning signs of emotional or physical distress and gently squeeze its owner preemptively.
While a mammalian friend may be extremely beneficial and exciting, it is important not to obtain one until you are ready. It would be unfair to own something you cannot maintain. Many animal shelters or even zoos have programs where individuals can volunteer their time with animals. The same benefits such as lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and healthy blood pressure levels can still be gained through these arrangements.