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Pet Therapy Program

Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, canine therapy, feline therapy, or equine therapy (for treatments involving dogs, cats and horses, respectively), is a field of treatment which is growing in popularity in recovery circles. Most often performed with dogs, pet therapy is useful in treatment plans in various medical issues and mental health treatments, and more and more it is being used to provide a calming, mood balancing segment of addiction treatment services as well.

Unlike the service animal program, the pets involved are not constant companions for the disabled, but instead they act almost as therapists for people in a disturbed emotional or psychological state.

Pet Therapy

How does animal-assisted therapy work?

If you have a pet, you are probably familiar with the calming, mood-lifting ability our animal companions can bring. Imagine a time where you have, for instance, undergone a bad breakup or lost a job. Your dog or cat can sense your distress and might nuzzle, ask to be stroked, or try to play with you in order to raise your spirit. Over time your mood stabilizes and you can begin to heal.

Typically a pet therapy session will last for an hour to two hours. For the first fifteen minutes or so, the animal will be sent into the room alone with you. You can pet the animal, talk to it, and play with it. As time passes, stress will bleed away and you enter a state that’s conducive to more traditional talk therapy.

Who is pet therapy for?

Animal-assisted therapy is extremely useful in a variety of treatment modalities, especially:

  • Children and teenagers
  • People suffering from withdrawal
  • The elderly
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder patients
  • Patients with a dual diagnosis
  • Depression and anxiety sufferers

And it’s not only the patient who reaps the benefits. The families and companions of animal-assisted therapy participants can also enjoy these sessions, especially as a way to facilitate group or family therapy.

While pet therapy has been used in medical settings for a long time, it’s only really starting to gain traction in the addiction treatment world. So far the results have been encouraging.

Does pet therapy have risks?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy. That being said, it is always a slight risk, especially in those who suffer from autoimmune diseases or hemophilia (inability to form blood clots).

Allergies can be a concern, so please be sure to check with the staff and inform them before taking part in pet therapy.

While a dog or cat may bite or scratch, or a horse may kick, this is almost unheard of. The snimals involved are “professionals,” in that they are selected and trained to be gentle and friendly. Also, the handler will never be far away,

Pet therapy at Chiron

Our pet therapy programs rank among our most popular experiential therapies. There is just so much our furry friends have to offer us – their affection, their joy and playfulness, their talent for calming us. Call today to find out more about pet therapy at Chiron.


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