After spending an entire day at office you come home really exhausted but as soon as you open the door there is a pair of loving eyes eager to meet you and lick your all worries away and change your exhausted mood into delightful!
Having pets reduces emotional stress because pets provide a strong emotional support system whose foundation lies in unconditional love. You might have many things to focus in this amazing world but for your pet YOU are the world. Owing to this unique relationship that an average human has with his/her pet, Animal Assisted therapy or pet therapy is all the rage these days.
Pet therapy is recognised by the National Institute of Mental Health as a type of psychotherapy for treating autism, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and other mood disorders. This involves the interaction of the patients with therapy animals such as swimming with dolphins, interaction with dogs, horseback riding, etc. In India it is being introduced in few NGO’s like Animal Angels Foundation.
There are three stages in the Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet Therapy:
Introduction: Patient goes to session with therapist without animals present to assess therapy needs. The next session the animal is introduced to the client and interactions between the animal and client begin.
Building the rapport: Developing a bond between the animal and client by developing motor skills by the means of grooming or feeding the therapy animal.
Final stage of bonding: Patients are then given power and independence with the freedom to make choices for the animal assisted therapy partner.
Why do we tend to bond with therapy animals?
Answer lies in the Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis. As per this hypothesis today human beings tend to develop an emotional attachment with the animals because initially for survival we were partly dependent on signals from animals surrounding any threat or safety. Hence today when we see any animal at rest or in the playful mood it gives us a sense of security.
Pet therapy aims for improving patient’s social, cognitive and emotional functioning. Here is the list of the few physical and social benefits of the Pet Therapy:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves Cardiovascular health
- Releases Endorphins (Oxytocin) that have a calming effect
- Lifts spirits and lessens depression
- Encourages communication
- Lowers anxiety
- Helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- Creates motivation for the client to recover faster dogs
- Provides non-stressful, non-judgmental environment.
Although the pet therapy has many pro’s but many researchers have claimed it as an exaggerated therapy. As per the critics, this therapy tends to work on the temporary basis and can not be counted as the ultimate solution for mental issues. However, even on the temporary basis the results of the therapy are too significant to be ignored. Here is an earlier article with a video from Harvard University emphasising the importance of Pet Therapy, do not miss this short video.