The Role of Therapy Animals in Addiction Recovery

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you may be wondering what kind of unusual and modern treatment options there are at your disposal. We are sure that you might have already heard of therapy animals and wondered if they could help in the recovery process. 

Trained pet companions can indeed play a vital role in addiction recovery, providing comfort, support, and motivation to those who are fighting addictions. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of this kind of therapy and how it can help people in recovery from addiction.

Therapy Animals and Their Different Types

Beasts have long been known to have healing properties, and therapy animals are playing an increasingly important role in addiction recovery. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small guinea pigs to large horses, and each breed offers its own special type of comfort or motivation. Pets provide a sense of well-being, which can be unbelievably beneficial during difficult times like those faced by someone dealing with addiction. 

Studies have also shown that interacting with an animal can increase positive emotions, reduce anxiety levels, and help develop healthy coping skills. So whether you are going through addiction recovery or need help managing daily life, it is worth looking into how pets might help you on your journey.

How Therapy Animals Differ From Service Dogs and Emotional Support Pets

Generally speaking, therapy animals are distinct from service ones, which are primarily dogs trained to perform specific tasks and assist those with a disability. For example, emotional support pets provide comfort to aid with anxiety and depression, but they largely lack the additional therapeutic skill set. 

Therapy animals are specially trained to interact with persons seeking physical, occupational, and mental healthcare and can be pretty effective in both unaccompanied visits and group activities. Such pets may even be used when working toward cognitive-behavioral goals related to meeting socialization goals and improving interactions. Furthermore, these specially-trained creatures have been shown to reduce stress hormones and improve feelings of positive well-being for patients in need.

The Specific Training and Qualifications 

Animal-assisted therapy is an increasingly popular method of treating addiction, utilizing the bond between humans and animals to provide therapeutic care. The animals must be of specific breeds, with acceptable temperaments and training for their specific roles. Certain regulations are in place to ensure that the pets remain healthy and receive appropriate care — this requires extensive training on the part of both the pet and its handler. 

The handler must complete safety education specifically related to managing a pet, in addition to learning how to interact with patients. Thus, for example, pups are highly trained from a young age to socialize with humans effectively, including understanding commands and body language cues. They must also pass rigorous health examinations before being accepted into treatment positions. There is no substitute for these qualifications — having adequately trained and qualified therapy animals is essential for providing effective treatment outcomes.

How Do Therapy Animals Interact With Addicts?

Therapy animals provide comfort and companionship to those in recovery from addiction, which can be a powerful tool for helping addicts cope with feelings of isolation. 

Studies have shown that spending time with these cute creatures increases oxytocin levels, which is the same hormone released during positive interactions with other humans. This feeling of connectedness can allow people dealing with addiction to develop better relationships with other people as well. Pets can also provide companionship and unconditional love while helping patients to learn how to care for others, a skill that is often lacking in addicts who have become used to only thinking about themselves. 

Finally, therapy animals have been shown to reduce levels of stress, depression, and anxiety in those dealing with addiction, allowing individuals to approach the recovery process with a more positive outlook.

A patient can spend time with the companion in several ways, for example:

  • Petting or brushing 
  • Walking outside
  • Doing activities such as playing ball or fetch
  • Participating in light obedience training.

The patient can also talk to the pet companion, which helps them practice verbalizing and expressing their emotions. This can be especially beneficial for those struggling with addiction, who are often unsure of how to start conversations with other people.

Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Trained pets can be an invaluable aid to addiction recovery, providing a source of comfort, empathy, and motivation. Not only do they offer companionship and a sense of belonging, but they can also lower stress levels and give survivors a sense of purpose. 

Studies have shed light on the physical and psychological benefits of this approach, showing that it can impact patients in different ways. Here are some explicit examples below:

  • Overall anxiety and stress levels reduction
  • Communication skills improvement
  • Increase in self-awareness and mindfulness
  • Formation of trust in relationships with others
  • Creation of a calming presence during times of crisis. 

As addiction recovery is challenging, adding an element like pet companionship to the process can greatly help improve targeted outcomes.

Where Is This Type of Treatment Provided?

This approach is usually practiced in clinical settings such as hospitals, addiction treatment clinics, and rehabilitation centers. However, there are other organizations that can help provide such services. For example, in some types of nurseries, reserves, and other places where animals are kept, you can also spend time with pets trained in a special way — however, such organizations are extremely rare.

It is important to ensure that the organization you are considering resorting to has valid certifications and a good track record of providing quality care. With the right tools, support, and training, a pet can provide life-changing benefits to those struggling with addiction.


In conclusion, therapy animals are becoming more widely utilized in addiction recovery, and for a good reason. Research has proven their efficacy and the positive effects that they have on humans. This type of therapy requires more than just the love of the pet: their handlers must receive specialized training to ensure that their pet is providing the best possible service. 

For those recovering from an addiction, pet companions can be a powerful source of motivation, comfort, and support as they transition into a healthier lifestyle. If you or anyone you know is looking to seek out therapies involving beasts, be sure to do your research and read up on all the requirements that are necessary for success.