Animals benefit those in addictions recovery

By Tyler Marr
May 30, 2017 - 9:59pm Updated: May 31, 2017 - 8:27am

Pet therapy appears to play a positive role on the road to sobriety, according to a recent study.

Part of a national survey, 68.4 per cent of those in addictions recovery identified their relationship with animals or pets as an important support. As well, 39.5 per cent identified their relationship with animals or pets as important to maintaining their recovery.

“Be it a service dog, or someone's pet, or therapy dog, it is that sense of being and that connection that is so important in recovery,” Colleen Dell, a health researcher at the University of Saskatchewan said. 

Dell said she was at first surprised by the results, but quickly understood why animals were so important to helping those in recovery break barriers. People often said the animal changed how they were viewed by others.

She explained how animals don't judge and can be a safe place to share thoughts and feelings. The simple act of petting can relieve stress and release positive hormones.

Dell has taken therapy dogs into treatment centres. She said the smiles and happy energy she observed by those in recovery was staggering.

“I was blown away by how much that animal-human bond is so important with those service dogs,” Dell said. “To be healthy, we need to be connected. People can be really discounted from themselves and others. [The animal] brings something [a therapist] cannot. I often say that the animals bring humanity,” she said.

Introducing this humanity was key, according to Dell. She felt as a society, technology was making people more and more disconnected.

“We are becoming discontented from the land and nature, and the animals can bring that back,” she said.

The study is part of ongoing research by Dell and her associates. It is the first of its kind in Canada and backs up findings from the United States and the United Kingdom.


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