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Emotional Support Animals

How Emotional Support Animals Can Help Us Recover from Trauma

Emotional support animals are pets that provide companionship to people suffering from mental health challenges. Here is how they help, along with some guidance on how you can use animal interactions to overcome trauma.

A Long History of Helping

While the general public has only recently become aware of the practice, animal intervention has long been used to facilitate certain psychiatric treatments. Known as Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI), the process involves the use of dogs, cats, birds and other animals to promote improvement in a person's social, physical, emotional and/or cognitive function. From children to war veterans to everyday adults, animals have played a key role in reducing the effects of trauma, while promoting better overall well-being.

Compelling Evidence

At minimum, most people experience a mild mood boost when they spend some quality time with their pets. For people who have experienced trauma, however, animals can do a lot more. Studies have uncovered a broad range of positive outcomes related to human-animal interactions. Among the most compelling include:

  • Researchers have uncovered evidence that people experience increased levels of the hormone oxytocin when interacting with animals . This biological effect could hold major implications, since oxytocin has been shown to improve trust, help people overcome paranoia and enhance prosocial behavior.

  • Research has shown that heart attack patients live longer if they are pet-owners , while another study found that people with hypertension can reduce their blood pressure by petting their dogs. Experts believe this has something to do with physiological responses that reduce the amount of the stress-hormone cortisol in the blood.

  • Improved sleep quality

  • Better social outcomes

  • Improvements in behavioral functioning among children

  • Reduced anxiety

  • A reduction in depression symptoms

It might not be surprising to learn that animal interactions have the power to improve a person's mood. That said, experts are becoming more and more fascinated with the way these interactions appear to alter brain function in people who have suffered trauma.

Bringing This Power into Your Life

If you are suffering from lingering psychological issues related to a past trauma, pet therapy could help you make greater strides toward recovery. Obviously, the easiest way to leverage this powerful tool is to spend time with your own pet. Unfortunately, pets aren't always a practical option for certain people.

If you aren't in a position to own a pet, there are a number of services that will arrange therapeutic animal interactions. From Therapy Dogs International to Pet Partners , numerous organizations provide home visits and therapy animal programs. You can also find a number of other reputable pet therapy programs by visiting The American Kennel Club website .

Our caring therapists are here to help you recover from past events. Contact us today!