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You have probably seen Instagram posts of cats dressed in tutus or small dogs being carted around in strollers.
It is clear that pets are often seen as members of the family for many, but a friendly furry animal can be more than just someone to come home to. The strong bond between humans and animals can have many therapeutic benefits as well. People have long been using pet therapy to treat mental illness like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. At our residential mental health program in Boca, we too believe in the power of animals for mental health treatment.
People with mental illnesses can have chemical imbalances and often experience feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and negative moods. Luckily, using pet therapy to treat mental illness may help correct these problems.
Research has found that simply petting an animal can change the chemical hormones in the brain and lead to increased feelings of happiness. One experiment compared petting your own dog, petting a strange dog, and reading a book; the research found that petting a dog, whether or not you knew the dog, led to a significant decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, while reading a book had no effects.  Overcoming a mental health disorder is a long and stressful process. Anything that will help decrease stress levels during this time will help make the recovery process easier.
Other research has found that pet therapy can help with depression treatment. One study assigned residents in an assisted living facility a bird, a plant, or nothing to take care of for three months; the results of the study found that the group assigned to take care of the bird has significantly decreased levels of depression and reported a better quality of life. 
Another way to use pet therapy to treat mental illness is by having animals present during therapy sessions. Because of their unconditional love without judgment, animals allow patients to feel more comfortable about opening up. When patients are more easily able to talk about their problems, they are more likely to receive the help they need to make a full recovery.
A 2016 survey found that 74% of pet owners said their mental health has improved because of owning a pet and 75% of pet owners said that a loved one of theirs had improved mental health because of pet ownership.  It seems that people are easily able to recognize the positive mental effect that animals can have on not only themselves, but also those closest to them. Whether it is an alpaca or a therapy dog, animals can give people the mental boost they need.
Whether you are in need of bipolar disorder treatment or anxiety treatment, you do not need to live with a debilitating mental disorder or an addiction problem. Research suggests that treating mental illness with pet therapy is often a viable option. With our combination of personalized mental illness treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and pet therapy, you could be well on your way to a happier and healthier life.
If you or a loved is looking for a mental health facility or co-occurring disorder treatment in Boca, contact us today at 888-280-4763.
- PubMed.gov – Neurophysiological correlated of affiliative behavior between humans and dogs
- PubMed.gov – Pet therapy and institutionalized elderly: a study on 144 cognitively unimpaired subjects
- The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) & Cohen Research Group – Survey: Pet Owners and the Human-Animal Bond