Why Therapy Dogs Are Great for Kids with Mental Health Struggles

Therapy dogs like Moses at Waterford Counseling help kids and teens cope.

When we think of therapy, the first thing that usually comes to mind is talk therapy. With kids and teens, perhaps we think of art therapy or group therapy. How often do we think of animals? Actually, we should think of them more often. More and more evidence is coming in that emotional therapy dogs can be very helpful for kids with certain conditions. For kids who struggle with mental health, contact with a therapy dog may actually enhance the results of traditional therapy. 

Several conditions seem to benefit most from emotional therapy dogs. When playing with a therapy dog, children with autism may feel more comfortable interacting with other people. Teens often become less irritable, distracted, or hyperactive. Dogs can help create a calmer environment, because kids have to have self control to interact with a dog. 

Kids with ADHD can also benefit from a therapy dog. Like kids with autism, these kids are calmer and less reactive when interacting with a dog. They also find it easier to socialize when a therapy dog is around. They know they have to be calm around the dog, and being calmer helps them interact with others. 

Therapy Dogs Help Kids and Teens Cope

Depression and anxiety symptoms in kids may be alleviated by canine-assisted therapy. The unconditional love of a dog is a balm for children struggling with these problems. Since therapy dogs are chosen from breeds that are known for high empathy and calm, they can quiet anxiety and boost self-esteem. Sometimes just the act of petting the dog’s soft fur will help a child or teen self-regulate better. 

Children, teens, and adults struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also benefit from a therapy dog. It seems that the unconditional love and support a dog offers can help kids with PTSD stay in the present rather than succumbing to flashbacks.  

PHPs and IOPs with Therapy Dogs See Improved Results for Patients

Not all families are able to have a therapy dog, either because of finances or other barriers. However, kids participating in a PHP (partial hospitalization program) or IOP (intensive outpatient program) can benefit from regular contact with therapy dogs as part of therapy offered by the program facility. Kids look forward to the times when the dogs are present. The dogs help kids with a variety of issues to feel calmer, more focused, and more regulated. 

Waterford Counseling understands the value of using animals in therapy. Moses, our own therapy dog has brought smiles to patients, parents, and staff members from day one. His calm influence and unwavering support and companionship makes us all feel more secure. Moses opens the path for patients in ways that traditional therapies can’t always do. If you’d like to learn more about how Moses makes a difference in therapy or schedule an assessment, please give us a call at 855-203-7240.

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