Research has shown that animal-assisted therapy or pet therapy acts as a mood booster. It can also lessen depression and other serious mental health issues. Psychiatrist Parul Tank lists the other benefits of pet therapy in relation to mental health.
Pet therapy is emotionally healing
This is true for both kids and adults. Parul shares, “Having a pet, teaches kids a sense of responsibility and empathy. They learn to value unconditional positive regard. A pet can help children with special needs, especially those kids on the autism spectrum or those suffering from cerebral palsy. These kids generally shy away from human touch, but find it comforting to bond with pets.”
The human-animal interaction and bond can also release endorphins that produce a calming effect. It also helps alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.
Impact of animal-assisted therapy on your mental health
Research has shown that pet therapy reduces stress and anxiety. It can emotionally heal those suffering from mental health disorders. It reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, and gives people a sense of companionship. As a result it can also lessen the signs of depression.
Parul adds, “Patients battling anxiety and depression experience a sense of responsibility towards a pet. This motivates them to carry on with life, and to provide for their pet. It also eases suicidal thoughts, ideas and lessens anxiety and depression.
A pet for everyone
Many groups and organisations connect volunteer owners and pets with those seeking pet therapy. The animal’s health, behaviour and temperament with its handler is noted. The pet is then recommended to a patient according to his or her specific needs.
Pet therapy fulfills a basic human need for touch, and that probably explains why playing or stroking a pet acts as a de-stressor for many.