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Grief Therapy Can Include a Furry Friend: an Animal

Grief is unique to everyone. While we may understand one another when we experience tremendous sadness, it can be difficult to truly connect with someone who has encountered something different. That’s when we turn to another living embodiment: an animal.

How Do Animals Help?

Animals are non-judgmental. They can’t talk to us except through body language. They don’t know your history or what is going on with you, but they are there for you. Take dogs, for example. Dogs are full of love and compassion. All you have to do is look at a loving pup and receive a wagging tail and lick on the hand in return.

Not enough proof? Take research into account.

“…research has shown it helps with a variety of emotional issues like depression, anxiety, and grief,” according to Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support from Harvard Medical School.

This is where animal-assisted therapy comes in.

What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

“Animal-assisted therapy involves interacting regularly with animals for a set time over weeks or months. The get-togethers usually involve dogs and cats in either individual or group settings, and consist of everything from petting to giving treats to just sitting together,” according to Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support.

It is also more than your dog or cat for comfort. There are many animals you can turn to, like horses. According to All About Animal-Assisted Therapy from PsychCentral, other animals include birds, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs. You could even experience comfort from your lizard pets! There is an animal there for you even if you don’t have a pet.

Is Animal-Assisted Therapy Effective?

Yes, it is effective. While there is much that goes into studying and measuring brain chemicals and emotions, research has shown that the results are fairly positive.

“Researchers speculate that levels of oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that encourages bonding, often increase, as does the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical,” according to Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support.

Animal assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks by Fabrizio Bert et al. recognizes multiple cases of children, adults, and elderly who all improved emotionally and physically after an animal-assisted therapy session. These animals consisted of fish, rabbits, cats, birds, horses, and an overwhelming amount of dogs for the sessions. Those who were undergoing pain, anxiety, and depression experienced a decrease post-session. These individuals were facing chronic illness or mental states and had a positive reaction to the animal exposure.

Overall, animals are an excellent source of emotional support. Whether you are grieving or experiencing anxiety, animals will help you. With a furry friend by your side who has nothing but unconditional love, you will find a little more peace in your heart.

Would you like grief support? Contact us today, and let us know how we can help you receive the right support.

Sources and recommended further reading:

All About Animal-Assisted Therapy 

Bert, Fabrizio et al. “Animal assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks.” European journal of integrative medicine vol. 8,5 (2016): 695-706. doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2016.05.005

How Animals Help in Grief from us at Bakken-Young 

Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support 

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