PET FRIENDLY ADDICTION TREATMENT CENTER
There is no disputing the positive effects of coming home each day to a wagging tail. A beloved pet offers unconditional love, providing their humans with feelings of abundant wellbeing and joy.
When considering residential treatment for a substance use disorder, one of the most difficult barriers to overcome is the unbearable thought of leaving one’s pet behind. We form tight bonds with our animals, so the idea of an extended period without their daily company is unthinkable.
At Ken Seeley Communities, we understand the important health and wellness benefits associated with pet ownership, thereby establishing a pet-friendly policy for our program. Showing up for rehab is a difficult hurdle for many. By allowing our clients to bring along their pets, this obstacle to getting needed treatment is removed. We also understand that the pet will actually become an inherent part of the client’s healing process.
Pet Companionship Aids Addiction Recovery
Heading off to rehab can be a source of anxiety for many. The anticipation of going through detox and then spending weeks away from home and work can be anxiety-provoking, at the very least. While there is no easy way to get through addiction treatment, the process can be made more edifying by having one’s pet along for the journey.
The healing power of pets is well known, and animal-assisted therapy is not a new concept. Using the presence of animals to provide comfort, distraction, and stress relief for individuals recovering from a variety of physical and mental wellness conditions is a time-honored practice. In recent years, this concept is being adapted to addiction recovery, where multiple benefits have been identified.
Here are some of the benefits of bringing a pet to rehab:
- Better attitude. It is hard not to smile when you look at your pet. Our animals are an important source of daily joy. They do not judge us or hold grudges. Our pets only love us, unconditionally. Having our beloved dog or cat snuggled up with us each night in rehab can put us in a much more positive state of mind, and that translates to a better attitude about recovery.
- Less stress. Going off to a treatment center where you know no one and don’t know what to expect is stressful. Addiction treatment is difficult. It is often emotionally taxing and physically uncomfortable. Having your pet along offers a sense of familiarity in otherwise unfamiliar surroundings, and this helps reduce stress.
- Accountability. Bringing your animal along to rehab helps to reinforce the concept of being accountable to someone other than oneself. While in treatment, you will be responsible for the care and wellbeing of your pet. By practicing these duties—feeding, cleaning up after, exercising, and grooming the animal—it can help build self-confidence.
- More social. A pet is a bridge to social interactions. Being outside with the animal and provide opportunities to strike up conversations and make new friends. Others may join you on a walk with the dog, or there may be a play area for several dogs to run around while the pet owners enjoy chatting together.
- More secure. Having the companionship of a pet along at rehab can make you feel safe and secure. Just having the animal nearby offers a sense of emotional and physical security. Being accustomed to having the pet protecting you at home, having them with you at rehab provides comfort in knowing they are still there for you.
- Not lonely. Loneliness is a common emotion in early recovery, both while at rehab and beyond. The nurturing presence of your loyal pet can offset those feelings of loneliness by filling the void in your life with their loving companionship, a non-human form of social support.
Evidence of the Positive Impact of Pets on Wellbeing
There is ample clinical evidence of the psychological and physical benefits attributed to pet ownership. A recent meta-analysis that reviewed 17 sources of data decisively highlights the value of pet ownership for individuals struggling with a mental wellness disorder. The studies overwhelmingly point to the positive influence a pet can have on one’s mental wellness. In fact, the co-author of the meta-study, Dr. Kelly Rushton, concludes, “We feel that pet ownership has a valuable contribution to mental wellness, so should be incorporated into individual care plans of patients.”
Physical Health Benefits:
A nationwide cohort study out of Sweden studied the health effects of owning a dog. The study results found a relationship between dog ownership and a reduction in cardiovascular disease. Other health benefits associated with pet ownership, according to the Centers of Disease Control include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased triglycerides
- Decreased cholesterol levels
Mental Wellness Benefits:
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that petting animals induces serotonin production, especially when petting dogs. Serotonin can help stave off depression. Other mental wellness benefits of pet ownership include:
- Reduced anxiety levels
- Better mood regulation
- Less aggression
When You Don’t Own a Pet
If you do not own a pet, but want to experience the benefits of being around animals in addiction recovery, there are other options available. For example, you can volunteer at an animal shelter. Spending a few hours a week at an animal shelter allows you to mingle with the animals while also helping to match an animal with a prospective new owner.
Equine therapy is another excellent option for experiencing positive effects of animals in addiction recovery. This involves assisting in the care of horses at an equestrian center that offers this therapy. You will be involved with grooming and exercising the horses, which can provide positive self-esteem, as well as a sense of accountability to the horse’s wellbeing.
If your neighbors have dogs, offer to help walk the dogs on occasion, or join the neighbor on dog walks. These 20-30 minute excursions provide many benefits, including exercise, getting outside in the fresh air, and socializing.
Volunteer for an animal rescue organization. These groups abound in every metropolitan area, offering plenty of opportunities to help care for the animals, foster an animal at home, or to help them be adopted at pet adoption events in the community.
Contact Ken Seeley Communities for more information about the pet requirements for admissions at (877) 774-0502.