By: Kelly Graham, MSW, RSW
Most pet owners know that pets aren’t just pets; they are part of the family. But why is that exactly?
As our attachment grows, we often begin to view our animal companion as having an important place within our lives and family dynamic. While our pet can be cute, there is more than just the cuteness factor that makes them play such a large role in our lives.
The use of animals to help people emotionally and mentally seems to be on the rise lately. But can they actually help? While an animal is not a replacement for medical treatment or counselling, they can help to improve your well-being… as long as you like animals.
There are 3 different types of animals that can provide support:
Service Animals – These animals are specially trained and paired with someone who needs assistance physically, mentally, or emotionally. (For example, people who are blind, have epilepsy or PTSD, etc.)
Therapy Animals – These animals have training (not as much as service animals) and are used in short-term sessions to help improve people’s well-being. They can also be used in a group setting or one-on-one.
Emotional Support Animals – These animals do not have specialized training, but are more than “just a pet” because they provide comfort to their owner when they are in distress.
How can animals help? When with an animal that you like, it releases the chemical oxytocin in the brain. This chemical generates feelings of love, trust, cooperation, optimism, calmness, and safety. This chemical can help in a variety of ways.
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