Here at Serenity Light, we make use of service dogs as part of our comprehensive approach to treating addiction. Service dogs can offer a wide variety of benefits to patients who are healing from their addictions. Here are just a few of them.
Animals accept us as we are—unconditionally and without judgment. Service dogs can offer individuals in recovery a sense of acceptance when it is most needed, at a time when these individuals are still preparing to assimilate back into their families, work, school, and society as a whole.
Receive unconditional love.
Recovery from addiction is often a time when individuals are exhibiting their very lowest levels of self-esteem. Service dogs, through the unconditional love that they offer, can help patients see their own self-worth at a time when they need to see it most.
Confide in a trustworthy companion.
Many patients in recovery find that service dogs make the best confidantes. Service dogs, after all, will never make judgments and will never share what you confide in them with others. A service dog can truly serve as a trustworthy addition to your support system.
Be distracted from your own problems.
Distraction can be a good thing, especially in addiction recovery when it means being distracted from the hardships you are facing. Spending time with an animal can draw your attention away from your own problems and instead onto the needs of the animal.
Practice nurture and empathy.
Service dogs can also help patients develop a stronger sense of empathy. As you spend time with a service dog, you’ll practice nurturing skills, consider the needs of others, and reflect on how your actions and words might affect someone else (in this case, a dog).
Socialize more with others.
You can certainly practice social skills alone with a service dog, but service dogs can be used to practice social skills with other humans as well. Patients are often more likely to socialize with each other when an animal is involved. Ultimately, increased socialization can lead to a stronger support system and strengthened communication skills for your recovery.
Glean numerous health benefits.
There are a number of additional proven health benefits associated with therapeutic and service dogs. These benefits are both physical and psychological.
Physical health benefits
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Diminished overall physical pain
Psychological health benefits
- Reduced symptoms of depression
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Reduced loneliness
- Increase in endorphins released, leading to calming effects
- Increased feelings of relaxation, which come naturally when petting an animal
- Increased socialization