The Healing Power of Therapy Dogs – A Look at the Benefits
Posted by Improving Lives Counseling Services, Inc. | Articles, Mental Health, Uncategorized
Therapy dogs have been used for years to provide comfort and companionship to people in need. These specially trained dogs are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to help individuals cope with a variety of physical and emotional challenges. But what exactly are the benefits of therapy dogs, and how do they help those they work with? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the research behind the healing power of therapy dogs.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
One of the most significant benefits of therapy dogs is their ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Research has shown that interacting with a therapy dog can lead to a decrease in cortisol, a hormone associated with stress (Barker et al., 2016). This can be especially helpful for people who are undergoing medical treatments or procedures that can be anxiety-inducing.
Improved Physical Health
In addition to their mental health benefits, therapy dogs can also help improve physical health. Studies have found that therapy dogs can help reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate, and decrease pain perception (Marcus et al., 2013; Yount et al., 2012). For individuals with chronic pain or illnesses, therapy dogs can provide a welcome distraction and help them cope with their symptoms.
- Increased Socialization
Therapy dogs can also help individuals with socialization and communication. This can be especially beneficial for children with autism or other developmental disorders. Studies have shown that interacting with a therapy dog can increase socialization and communication skills in children (O’Haire et al., 2013). Therapy dogs can also help individuals who are isolated or lonely feel more connected to others.
Enhanced Emotional Well-being
Finally, therapy dogs can help improve emotional well-being. Interacting with a therapy dog can lead to an increase in oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and attachment (Beetz et al., 2012). This can be especially helpful for individuals who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
Overall, the benefits of therapy dogs are clear. They can reduce stress and anxiety, improve physical health, increase socialization, and enhance emotional well-being. For individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings, therapy dogs can provide a valuable source of comfort and support. If you or someone you know is in need of emotional or physical support, consider reaching out to a local therapy dog organization.
Barker, S. B., Knisely, J. S., McCain, N. L., & Best, A. M. (2016). Measuring stress and immune response in healthcare professionals following interaction with a therapy dog: A pilot study. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 9(3), 350-363.
Beetz, A., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: The possible role of oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 234.
Marcus, D. A., Bernstein, C. D., Constantin, J. M., Kunkel, F. A., Breuer, P., & Hanlon, R. B. (2013). Animal-assisted therapy at an outpatient pain management clinic. Pain Medicine, 14(2), 240-253.
O’Haire, M. E., McKenzie, S. J., McCune, S., & Slaughter, V. (2013). Effects of classroom animal-assisted activities on social functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(4), 359-363.