In times of trauma and emotional distress, animals have proven themselves to be extraordinary companions for humans. The phrase “dog is man’s best friend” encompasses the larger concept that any animal can provide immense support and solace during the healing process. Personal experiences often highlight the unique bond between humans and animals, with their presence alone bringing laughter, comfort, and companionship.
In this article, we explore the thoughtful impact animals can have on individuals navigating the path of trauma recovery.
One of the remarkable aspects of the human-animal bond is the ability to communicate without relying on words. This silent connection forms a deep understanding between people and their animal buddies. Whether it’s a dog, cat, or any other animal, this nonverbal communication can surpass the limitations of language, offering comfort and support during tough times.
A study reveals an instance where prisoners enjoyed the human-animal bond through Animal Assisted interventions (AAI) where the therapy program visited them every 2 weeks, this was supported by the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and is proof of how our furry friends can assist with recovery.
In my personal journey, my cat, Ceaser, plays an instrumental role in my healing process. While ignorant of its significance, Ceaser’s mere presence brings joy and comfort. The simple act of having a cat waking me up in the morning exceeds the functionality of an alarm clock, reminding me that life moves forward and that I am not alone. Our communications, filled with purrs, gentle touches, and playful antics, fostered a sense of safety and tranquillity that words alone could not provide. Studies have shown that keeping a cat can reduce stress, anxiety, and even lower blood pressure, they are great buddies for people who live alone.
Pets offer unmatched support by providing natural healing through their presence. They increase oxytocin levels, promote a sense of calm and peace, and help individuals release feelings of anger and resentment. Also, pets teach mindfulness by living in the present moment, accepting themselves and others, and demonstrating the importance of self-care. Living with a pet can ease the healing process and bring company and affection, offering valuable life lessons to trauma survivors.
Interaction between Animals
The contact between animals within a household can be fascinating to observe. While they cannot verbally communicate, their behaviour and body language serve as a form of communication in itself. Watching a cat and a dog cross their dynamics can be both entertaining and enlightening.
In some cases, a dog may have entered the household before the cat, leading to established roles and territorial behaviours. The cat, sensing this established hierarchy, might try to assert its own territory. On the other hand, if the cat arrived first, the dog may display a more submissive demeanour, attempting to adapt to the cat’s established presence. These nonverbal interactions can be captivating, offering a glimpse into the animal world’s intricate dynamics.
Healing Through Animal Companionship
The healing power of animals is not limited to their ability to communicate nonverbally. Animals provide a sense of unconditional love, acceptance, and empathy, creating a safe space for individuals to process their trauma. When humans struggle to express their emotions or find succour in human connections, animals offer a non-judgmental presence that allows for emotional release and healing. Animal therapy help with specific mental and physical health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Animal-assisted intervention, also referred to as AAI, encompasses a wide range of therapeutic applications involving animals. These interventions can vary from informal activities aimed at providing enrichment, known as animal-assisted activities (AAA), to personalized and structured sessions tailored to meet specific therapeutic goals, known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Furthermore, animals can also be incorporated into educational settings to support the achievement of academic objectives, a practice known as animal-assisted education (AAE).
Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of animal-assisted therapy on trauma survivors. Interacting with animals has been found to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression while promoting relaxation and overall well-being. The tactile sensation of stroking an animal’s fur, the rhythmic sound of their purrs or gentle breathing, and the warmth they radiate all contribute to a soothing environment that can aid in the healing process.
Animals in Child Therapy
The human-animal bond has a rich history and plays a crucial role in supporting the mental well-being of young children. Animals can contribute to the therapeutic alliance between mental health professionals and children in several significant ways; they initiate interaction by making individuals appear more approachable and friendly, serving as a social lubricant and easing the pressures of human interaction.
Animals provide added social support, acting as peers, playmates, and friends for children, thereby buffering negative emotions and helping them navigate new or challenging situations. In the aftermath of a crisis, trained therapy dogs can intervene to provide comfort and support to children, offering solace following disasters or traumatic events. Also, animals can function as co-therapists alongside mental health professionals, actively integrated into treatment plans to assist children in building confidence and a sense of control.
Animals possess an innate ability to support humans in their journey towards trauma recovery. Whether it’s a cat, a dog, or any other beloved pet, the unspoken connection and unwavering companionship they provide can be transformative.
The healing power of animals extends beyond words, offering solace, empathy, and a safe space for emotional healing. As we navigate the path to recovery, let us cherish the remarkable bond between humans and animals, recognizing their invaluable role as our steadfast companions in times of need.
For further reading, here’s an interesting article which focused healing trauma through the human-animal bond “A farm where animals and people heal from trauma together”, you can click here.