by Comprehensive Staff
When we’re facing despair, loneliness, chronic health issues, depression, addictions, or anything beyond our ability to cope, a pet can help ease the pain. He or she can give us a reason to get out of our thoughts to focus on a sense of purpose. The relationship we have with our pets is real and symbiotic—what we give to our pets comes back in ways that can’t be measured.
Research shows the benefits of pet therapy (in fact, its first known use dates back to the 9th century!). Boris Levinson was the first clinician to truly introduce the value of animals in a therapeutic environment. In the 1960s, Levinson reported that having his dog present at talk therapy sessions led to increased communication, increased self-esteem and increased willingness to disclose difficult experiences. Ever since, people have been turning to pets for comfort and support during periods of emotional turmoil.
Hugging and speaking with a pet who won’t judge you for your feelings or thoughts is cathartic and helps people get through rough times. Pets also reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, giving people a reason to get up in the morning. Other benefits are unconditional love, acceptance, a “buddy” that encourages physical activity, which leads to healthier lifestyles.
If you’re unable to own a pet, there are many ways to reap the benefits of a pet relationship. Volunteering at a local shelter or helping rescue groups or pet therapy organizations such as Pet Partners (a national organization that promotes positive human-animal interactions) are ways to save pets’ lives, and possibly your own.