Using Animal-Assisted Therapy to Work Through Anxiety

 

Did you know that animals are good for so much more than simply household companions? In fact, animal-assisted therapy is a growing approach in the treatment of anxiety disorder, and you might consider it as an addition to your own healing journey. This method can use all kinds of animals— everything from horses to dogs to dolphins… or even bunnies, like our very own Jennifer Watts uses here at New Perspective Counseling!

5 Ways Animal-Assisted Therapy Helps

Animals have proven psychologically beneficial in a number of ways for a number of conditions when used alongside traditional treatments. Here are just a few of those ways:

  1. Animals can provide comfort and calm in stressful situations, serving to slow down the parasympathetic nervous system. When you struggle with anxiety disorder, it’s important to have a toolbox of calming exercises at your disposal, and the safety that an animal can provide can be an extremely useful one. 
  1. Your interaction with an animal can serve as an indication of how you interact in relationships. For example, if you’re friendly with an animal and see how it responds positively to you, you might begin to draw connections between how the same can occur in your human relationships. If the opposite is the case, and you’re more standoffish towards an animal, it will sense that and draw your awareness to how that keeps it from connecting to you. This application from animal to human can help you notice how you interact socially and make it feel possible to work towards connecting in your own relationships.
  1. Animals are a nonjudgmental form of support that allow for free and authentic interaction. They don’t know your history or trauma; they just accept you as you are and are consistently happy to see you. This neutrality makes it more likely that you’ll feel comfortable and safe in a therapeutic environment, whereas just one-on-one talk therapy might not. 
  1. Animals provide physical contact, which can be missing from a person’s life. Feeling loved and cared for is imperative to mental health, and animals can provide it in abundance in animal-assisted therapy.
  1. An animal in a session helps relieve some of the attention from you, which can be especially helpful in anxiety ttreatment. When the focus is shared between you and the animal, it might help you feel less overwhelmed and open to discussing your emotions with your therapist.

Is AAT Right For Me?

While animal-assisted therapy should never be used as a full replacement for traditional talk therapy, it can be a fantastic supplement to the healing process. There are very few reasons why animal-assisted therapy wouldn’t be helpful to a person, but you might find it isn’t quite right for you if you historically have a strong fear of animals, are allergic to certain types, or have reduced immunity. 

If you’re curious about the use of animal-assisted therapy in your own healing, please give us a call or talk to your therapist here at New Perspective Counseling. We’d love to tell you more about it, and we know that Jennifer’s bunnies would love to meet you! 

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