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.