The Benefits of Therapy Dogs and Their Effect on Victims of Trauma
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Therapy dogs have been used for decades (since WWII to be exact), providing comfort, support, and companionship to us humans. In fact, many of us are familiar with service dogs who help those with disabilities by providing around-the-clock help and care — however, our four-legged friends can also work to help victims of trauma.
It’s important to shed light on the positive effects therapy and emotional support dogs can provide those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as many could benefit from their therapeutic aid.
Life After Trauma
It’s really no secret that many veterans often struggle adjusting to civilian life. Military service is a demanding career that can leave many feeling isolated when they return to everyday life. It’s particularly challenging for those who were exposed to traumatic situations over their time in the military.
Anything from the sound of fireworks to the sight of a bag of trash on the side of the road can evoke overwhelming memories, emotions, and flashbacks for vets. Dealing with the effects of PTSD is not only mentally and physically exhausting, but can interfere with job-seeking efforts and relationships, and even lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Therapy dogs are one solution to helping veterans transition from military to civilian life, assisting them through tough PTSD episodes. According to experts at Psychology Today, dogs can help individuals with PTSD a number of ways.
They explain that:
- Dogs are vigilant
- Dogs are protective
- Dogs respond well to authoritative relationships
- Dogs love unconditionally
- Dogs help relearn trust
- Dogs help to remember feelings of love
These factors are important as they all provide a sense of companionship and help those suffering from PTSD feel less alone. Moreover, dogs can help ground individuals in the present, rather than their traumatizing past. Dogs naturally provide a lot of therapeutic benefits but can also be trained to professionally handle symptoms and warning signs of PTSD by waking owners up from nightmares, retrieving medications, and interrupting panic attacks.
Of course, transitioning veterans also greatly benefit from military social workers and other adjustment programs, but therapy dogs can help with long-term recovery and provide crucial day-to-day assistance and interaction.
It’s also important to note that it’s not only veterans of war who suffer from PTSD. Victims of abuse, natural disasters, assault, and even those dealing with the loss of a loved one can suffer from PTSD. Trauma can affect anyone. It also means that dogs can comfort and support a lot of people.
Depending on the level of trauma, it’s certainly worth considering a therapy dog to help those dealing with trauma. Trained therapy dogs can get expensive (they’re worth it), but luckily there are many programs like 4 Paws For Ability that work with families to help cover the costs.
At the end of the day, the services therapy dogs provide to trauma victims are invaluable. These dogs are able to help individuals begin the road to healing and change their lives for the better, and it all begins with a simple wag of their tail.