Recovery can happen in many different ways – but did you know that one of those ways might even involve a llama?
Using animals in recovery (called animal-assisted therapy) is a growing treatment method that can provide important benefits for its participants. Here are four things you need to know about it:
1. Animal-assisted therapy can include many different types of animals.
Dogs, cats and horses are all great choices for animal-assisted therapy (check out this North Carolina-based horse therapy program!). They’re easy to bond with, and most people are quite comfortable with them. But your choices don’t end there! More unconventional animals, like guinea pigs, llamas and birds can also be used.
2. Animal-assisted therapy can boost your emotional well-being.
Animal-assisted therapy can have calming and pain-relieving effects, according to a 2013 study from the Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Additionally, a 2015 Harvard study found that the emotional well-being of cancer patients significantly increased after they spent 15-20 minutes with a therapy dog each week.
3. Animal-assisted therapy can help build traits like responsibility and empathy.
Some animal-assisted therapy programs allow those in recovery to take care of the animal by grooming, exercising or feeding it. According to a 2009 study from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, when those in recovery take responsibility for animal-related tasks, they can boost and build upon their relational skills.
4. Animal-assisted therapy can increase the chance of success of a person’s treatment program.
A 1999 South Carolina study found that animal therapy gave those in addiction treatment less anxiety about their program. A later 2009 study from American researchers found that those in treatment who underwent animal-assisted therapy had a greater regard for their treatment program. Both of these conclusions suggest that those in recovery may have a greater chance of success if they join animal-assisted therapy.