Canine Therapy in Adolescent Treatment
Many mental disorders emerge for the first time during adolescence, but it can sometimes be hard to engage young people in treatment. Animal-assisted therapy has been demonstrated to be a good way to engage adolescents in treatment and to build rapport.
Having dogs present during therapy can make therapy seem more acceptable or less intimidating. Some animal-assisted therapy success stories have come from situations like:
- Therapy dogs used to de-stress college students during exams or following a stressful event
- The use of dogs to enhance cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD in young people
- Comforting young people after trauma, like a natural disaster or violence
Animal-assisted therapy has also been shown to be effective following trauma, and dogs are often effective for adolescents and children who have experienced a traumatic event.
Does Animal-assisted Therapy Work?
Even though many people enjoy the benefits dogs have on mental health, there are still questions as to whether animal-assisted therapy works. However, animal-assisted therapy has been shown to work in different scenarios, including for people with substance use disorders.
Like many mental health therapies, animal-assisted therapy works best when incorporated as part of a treatment strategy, rather than used on its own. While dogs can provide support and comfort, they cannot directly address underlying psychological or behavioral factors of a mental illness or substance abuse.
Improving mental health through animal-assisted therapy is possible and research has shown it to be effective. These benefits are likely due to how the animals make a person feel more confident in their ability to complete therapy.
Limitations of Animal-assisted Therapy
There can also be several limitations of animal-assisted therapy. For example, being allergic or scared of dogs makes it unlikely that dog-assisted therapy will be of benefit.
Animal-assisted therapy may not be effective for people with substance use disorders in the early stages of recovery, particularly if they are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Although there is evidence to support animal-assisted therapy as an effective treatment, more research is required to know exactly how many sessions should be used or if a more structured treatment protocol is necessary.
What to Look For in a Canine Therapy Program
To improve effectiveness, canine therapy should be conducted by trained professionals and their animals.
When looking for an animal- or canine-assisted therapy programs for addiction, it’s important to make sure programs have adequate training and certifications. It is also important to make sure the dog and trainer have experience in mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Other factors to consider depend on personal needs and preferences. For example, some people may prefer a more hands-on approach and should look for canine therapy options that offer walking or training activities.
Finding Canine-assisted Therapy Programs
Animal-assisted therapy is increasingly popular and there are many opportunities to incorporate it into treatment. Animal-assisted therapy options are available throughout the country.
Many drug rehab programs or drug addiction therapies offer canine-assisted therapy to support their patients in their recovery. Remember that what works best for one person may not be what will work best for another. Consider personal needs and preferences when looking for a professional treatment facility.
If you or a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder and are ready to address it with professional treatment, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative who can help you take the first step toward long-term sobriety. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
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Motomura, Naoyusa.; Yagi, Takayoshi; Ohyama, Hitomi. “Animal assisted therapy for people with dementia.” Psychogeriatrics, 2004. Accessed September 21, 2019.
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Annick, Maujean; et al. “A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Psychosocial Outcomes.” Anthrozoös, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2019.
Contalbrigo, Laura; et al. “The efficacy of dog-assisted therapy in detained drug users: A pilot study in an Italian attenuated custody institute.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.