There are more than 3 million cases of alcoholism in the US each year. Alcohol dependence cannot be cured, but treatment can help individuals affected by this condition. Alcoholism is an addiction to the consumption of alcohol. The inability to control drinking habits can be due to both physical and emotional dependence on alcohol.
Since alcoholism cannot be cured, it requires a variety of treatments that can help addicts get better. One treatment that can help patients tremendously with their alcohol addiction is animal-assisted therapy from therapy dogs.
What is a Therapy Dog?
Therapy dogs travel with their owners to places like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to visit people. These therapy dog visits are usually in place to help people feel better and relieve stress. Therapy dogs and their owners work as a team to improve the lives of other people.
A therapy dog is not the same as a service dog, and the two are commonly confused with each other. Service dogs are specially trained to help one individual with a disability perform specific tasks.
How Can Therapy Dogs Help with Alcohol Addiction Recovery?
Many studies have shown that dogs can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fear. Petting or playing with a dog increases oxytocin release in the human brain. Oxytocin is a stress-reducing hormone.
Animal-assisted therapy with therapy dogs can be beneficial for recovering alcoholics in a number of ways:
- Learn to build relationships with other people.
- Increases mood.
- Help patients open up and communicate better with their therapists.
- Reduce abusive behavior and help patients learn appropriate touch.
- Improved ability to express feelings by helping patients relate to the dog.
- Boosts confidence.
- Improves patient relationship with therapist.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Improves communication skills.
One study shows that therapy dogs do in fact help substance abuse patients in an inpatient rehabilitation setting. During this study, three therapy dogs visited patients for a period of 12 weeks. Many of the patients were able to participate in activities that provided enjoyment for them, which was the overall goal of the therapy dog visits.
The study concluded that the patients were able to open up and communicate more comfortably about things that they may not have talked about without the dogs present. The results of the study showed that the use of therapy dogs with substance abuse patients is beneficial and allows for increased opportunities to learn more about the patients.
Simply having a therapy dog around during rehabilitation of alcoholism can help with treatment tremendously. Many recovering alcoholics also benefit from adopting a dog of their own, providing them with a sense of responsibility and better self esteem.
Grooming, playing with, walking, and the basic responsibility of caring for a dog can help recovering alcoholics keep their minds off of a relapse during their recovery process.