How animal therapy can help you on your healing journey.
Animal therapy, also known as pet therapy and animal-assisted therapy was first formally researched in the 1960s. This original study involved the use of dogs and found that they had a positive effect on young “mentally impaired patients”. From this beginning, the knowledge on animal therapy has grown and expanded to involve a range of animals, including horses and alpacas.
What exactly is it and how does it work?
Animal therapy, and more specifically horse and alpaca therapy, consists of an individual meeting and spending time with the animal to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. Spending time with an animal can also help to improve an individual’s mood and decrease their feelings of distress. This is due to the release of endorphins that results from interacting with different animals.
What are the benefits and will it help me?
There are a range of benefits to animal therapy, especially for individuals who are away from home or in the hospital for a long period. Animal therapy helps to increase the mood of the individual while calming them down and easing any symptoms they may be experiencing. Animal therapy is also being used to help individuals recover and live with a range of physical health conditions, such as; heart disease, dementia, cancer and more.
Why horses and alpacas?
While animal therapy originally began with dogs, this practice is continually expanded to incorporate a range of animalsthat wouldn’t normally see in your day to day. With parallel experiences in our interactions and how we live, horses and alpacas offer a mirror into the way our mind works. With an admirable sense of awareness and stillness, horses and alpacas will not stay in the presence of a person who is distracted or scattered. Instead, these gentle creatures will help to slow our racing minds and give a new appreciation to emotional intelligence and nonverbal communication. With their gentle nature, horses and alpacas have the ability to ‘read’ and comfort people, especially people with trauma. This opportunity is important and provides a course of therapy where the individual does not have to be surrounded by other people.
By Zoe Moffatt