Pet Therapy & Clinical Hypnotherapy | Consultancy | Training | Rebecca Jones | Harley St.| London W1
Pet Therapy and Clinical Hypnotherapy with Rebecca Jones M.A. Dip(PCH)
Pet-assisted therapy - how animals help patients combat mental illness.
Patients at the Priory’s Hospitals are benefiting from the company of a 'therapy dog' to help with their treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression.
Lara, a rescue dog from Battersea Dogs Home, is introduced into some therapy sessions by her owner Daniel Fryer, a senior qualified psychotherapist.
Where appropriate and where patients are keen, they are able to interact with the dog, and some choose to pat and stroke, or groom and hug, Lara as they participate in therapy. This helps provide comfort in moments of distress, and helps to rebuild self-esteem.
Daniel said: "Lara works as a great ice breaker in one-to-one and group therapy sessions. She lifts the spirits of patients on ward visits. Petting or stroking a dog does wonders for your blood pressure and stress levels."
Daniel believes the reason that Lara is such a success with his patients is because "they don't feel judged by a dog, who is able to display unconditional acceptance, and they feel more confident to confront their issues".
How can pet-assisted therapy help patients?
Pet-assisted activities encourage patients to have conversations with their therapist, as well as with their fellow patients. This can be helpful in promoting social interaction and breaking down barriers, emotionally and in a social context.
Animals can trigger the release of endorphins, a feel-good neurotransmitter which gives a calming effect and boosts the level of serotonin, a chemical linked with happiness and well-being.
By directing one's attention towards another living thing, a patient's focus is drawn away from his or her own difficulties and, for a while, they can distance themselves from their distress and then begin talking about their own issues and consider ways forward.
In this way, pet-assisted therapy enables a patient to work with a professional towards attaining clinical goals.
Universities worldwide are turning to therapy dogs to relieve their students' pre-exam nerves and first-term homesickness.
And studies have found that just the presence of a dog can help lower levels of stress and anxiety. A recent Dogs Trust survey found that 95% of dog owners in Britain believe that interacting with their dog made them happier, with 89% saying they talk to their dog when no one else is around1.
Some experts say the presence of an animal in a hospital environment helps patients feel more at home.
Living Well with Dementia: Pet Therapy
It is scientifically proven that interaction with animals can bring manifold benefits for those living with dementia. While it might feel good to be giving a pet a good scratch behind the ear, it’s also doing physical good. Endorphin levels, the ‘feel-good’ hormones your brain releases, rise; the release of serotonin, nicknamed the ‘happy chemical’, also increases, lessening depression and anxiety; and cortisol, a hormone correlated with stress, and blood pressure both decrease.
Further, animal therapy brings significant psychological advantages for those with dementia symptoms: emotional connection, flowing of affection, relief of boredom, renewal of energy – the list goes on and on. It comes down to a very simple truth: pets just make us feel happier.
Pet Therapy for People Living with Dementia
People in the early stages of dementia – those still living at home with a family member – can benefit as they always have from the love of the family pet. The responsibility (which should be overseen by a caregiver, of course) of taking care of the animal – walking, feeding, grooming and so on – offsets the sense of helplessness too often found in people with dementia symptoms.
Families can go a step further when it comes to ownership therapy: specially trained dementia assistance dogs, in addition to their value simply as loveable pets, can actually help with the tasks of caring for your loved ones with dementia. They can wake Mum and remind her when it’s time to eat or take medications. If Dad likes to go for a walk in the neighbourhood but it’s possible he’ll lose his bearings, at the simple command ‘Home’, the therapy dog will bring him back safely.
But of course, there comes a time when it is no longer safe for a person living with dementia symptoms to remain at home. When private pet ownership is no longer possible and someone with dementia has moved into a care home, they can still reap the benefits of animal companions through visitation therapy.
As carers, we understand the benefits of visitation therapy for our residents. You can bring Mollie the dog to visit Dad in his care home… it’s hard to know who will appreciate this more!
Our care homes have hosted all kinds of animals in the past, before COVID-19 lockdown, including dogs, rabbits, owls and reptiles. Riverdale Care Home, for example, previously brought in Pets as Therapy (PAT) dogs on a regular basis.
Animal therapy, also called pet therapy or animal assisted therapy, refers to various services using animals to help people with specific physical or mental health conditions.
Animals may be able to provide comfort, alert others if someone is in danger, or even perform direct actions to help a person’s condition when they are in need. It is a type of complementary or alternative therapy. It should enhance but not replace other treatments.
On the whole, the goal of animal assisted therapy is to alleviate or help people cope with some symptoms of various conditions where possible.
The exact type of animal therapy can vary greatly depending on what condition the person has, the type of animal, and what kind of therapy they provide.
Animal therapy builds on a concept called the human-animal bond, which describes people’s desire to interact with and relate to animals. For many people, by interacting with a friendly animal, they can form a bond with them. This bond can produce a calming state in the person.
This bond itself may help the person in several ways, such as:
increasing movement and activity through walks and play
providing companionship and decreasing loneliness
increasing social interactions
improving mood and general well-being
The positive interactions with an animal may lead to benefits in the mind and body, such as reduced stress and an overall more balanced mental and emotional state.
Animal therapy partially uses this bond in a directed way to achieve the goals of the therapy.
How does it work?
Animal therapy can have several goals, and these will determine how it works. The type of therapy and target for this therapy may change depending on the condition and the type of aid that a person needs. Some examples include:
providing comfort and reducing levels of pain
improving movement or motor skills
developing social or behavioural skills
increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others
The process of animal therapy itself typically involves the animal’s handler, who is often the owner, bringing the animal to each session. The handler will work under a doctor’s guidance to help the person achieve the goals of their therapy.
A number of organisations train handlers and connect them to healthcare providers. Many handlers work as volunteers. Before getting approval for therapy use, both the animal and the handler will have to go through various certifications with these groups and organizations.
The handler must generally pass an instructional course on how to interact with people and perform the types of therapies that they may provide.
The animal also has to go through certain checks. These will include checking immunization records and performing physical exams to ensure that the animal is generally healthy and free of disease. They will also have to undergo temperament testing to make sure that they behave properly with both the handler and other people.
Additionally, the pair will go through obedience training. This rigorous testing and certification ensures the safety and professionalism of everyone involved and helps give the person access to the best therapy sessions possible.
It is important to note that a therapy dog is not the same as a service dog and does not have all of the same rights. For example, a therapy dog cannot accompany a handler into a business establishment.
The Benefits of Pet Therapy
– a different way of looking at it!
How does one put feelings into words? Describe a frame of mind, especially as it is changing? Tell someone else how and why pet therapy makes you feel …better?
We’ll try to list and explain the benefits of pet therapy – with single words rather than get caught up in the tangle of sentences and clauses. Hopefully, these words capture the magic that can happen.
Accepted just because you exist.
Calmer than a few minutes ago, happier than before the dog arrived.
The presence of a dog, just the very presence can give you the
Encouragement to work harder
Motivation to get up and move
A reason to talk to someone
Hope that things will get better
There is no judgment coming from that dog
No expectations except maybe for a scratch and a treat.
Because that dog needs you for who you are, you can be just that – who you are.
When the dog is with you, you can read more confidently
Tell him your secrets – because he promises not to tell anyone, ever.
The good oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin increase in your body while the bad cortisol decreases – so you feel better even without the emotional aspects of being with the pet.
You may get distracted by the antics of the pet, make contact with a warm, living breathing being with lots of textures to reach out and touch, brush, cuddle. You might just end up playing a little and smiling a lot. And that dog becomes your companion, your friend, and your reason to smile.
Pet therapy touches humans psychologically, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. These pets provide healing for any and every part of you that is hurting.
What is pet therapy?
Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. It also involves the animal’s handler. The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone recover from or cope with a health problem or mental disorder.
Dogs and cats are most commonly used in pet therapy. However, fish, guinea pigs, horses, and other animals that meet screening criteria can also be used. The type of animal chosen depends on the therapeutic goals of a person’s treatment plan.
Pet therapy is also referred to as animal-assisted therapy (AAT). AAT is sometimes confused with animal-assisted activities (AAA). AAT is a formal, structured set of sessions that helps people reach specific goals in their treatment. AAA involves more casual meetings in which an animal and its handler interact with one or more people for comfort or recreation.
What are the benefits of pet therapy?
Pet therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond. Interacting with a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. It can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. It can also release endorphins that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.
Pet therapy can be used in many different ways. Defined objectives are an important part of therapy, and your progress will be recorded and tracked at structured sessions.