Who could dispute that animals can have a positive effect on emotional well-being? With research being conducted into the field of alternative medicine on an on-going basis, more and more people are beginning to realize the cathartic effects that animals are having on individuals well-being, especially so in those patients suffering with depression.
While some people recover from depression using medications alone, there are many others, who would prefer to use a combination of alternative therapies to try to alleviate the symptoms of depression. One of these treatments being studied is ‘Pet Therapy’, but what is this alternative and how could it help?
Many scientists have spent endless hours looking into the different types of therapy available for treating depression as an illness; ‘Pet Therapy’ has been concluded as one of these therapies. Animals have long been recognized as being a positive force in the healing process.
Dogs notably have a calming and therapeutic effect on people. They can help individuals to cope with the emotional issues related to their illness. They also offer physical contact with another living creature and help to divert a person’s attention from their pressing daily problems. Owning a dog brings about a sense of responsibility. Dogs rely on their owners for feeding, walking, attention and love. What better excuse for a depressed person to get out of bed in the morning?
Dogs love almost everyone without any degree of prejudice or rejection. You do not need to speak any type of language to communicate with a four-legged friend. Give them a treat, tickle their tummy and they will love you without bounds. Dogs are aware of illness and sadness and genuinely want to provide companionship and comfort; they show an abundance of intelligence and are both intuitive and compassionate. Any dog owner will relate and agree with me when I say that it is a warm feeling when their dog can detect their sorrow and lick their tears away.
Pet Therapy can facilitate many positive changes one such example being increased socialization skills. Animals can be used as part of group therapy programs to encourage communication and increase the ability to focus. Helping to develop a person’s self-esteem and reducing their loneliness and anxiety are just some potential benefits of individual-animal therapy.
The bond between humans and animals is demonstrated every day in millions of homes around the world. It is also becoming a powerful, common mode of therapy in many facilities such as hospitals, schools and residential homes.
While it is difficult to measure and quantify the benefits of dog therapy with hard scientific fact, there is no question that the magical interaction possible between animal and human is unmistakable. Tears can be dried. Scowls transform into smiles. Silence is broken and lastly but not least importantly loneliness and isolation can be ejected from a person through mere touch and cuddles. Dogs offer their owner’s absolute and unconditional love and a level of boundless patience that no human could ever possibly give. The love of a dog is unlimited, what better form of alternative therapy could there be?
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(c) Samantha Weaver 2006
Animal Therapy for Depression