Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
Churchill is referring to horseback riding and how much physical therapy it can provide. However, this comment goes much deeper as animals have a special place in the hearts of people.
What is animal assisted therapy?
"Animal-assisted therapy is an alternative or complementary type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. It falls under the realm of Animal Assisted Interventions." (Wikipedia)
Animal assisted therapy can help with numerous mental health problems:
- Can increase self-esteem
- Reduces anxiety, isolation, and grief.
- Reduces the risk of depression
- Helps people relax and minimize stress
- Provides safety and unconditional acceptance
In the 1800s Florence Nightingale discovered that pets reduced anxiety in psychiatric patients and children.
While animal assisted therapy typically involves a professional in the mental health field bringing an animal to a therapy session, your family can still benefit from therapy animals. In Islam we can't have a pet dog because of the Hadith that said,
Narrated Ibn `Umar: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Whoever keeps a (pet) dog which is neither a watch dog nor a hunting dog, will get a daily deduction of two Qirat from his good deeds."
حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ دِينَارٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ ابْنَ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " مَنِ اقْتَنَى كَلْبًا لَيْسَ بِكَلْبِ مَاشِيَةٍ أَوْ ضَارِيَةٍ، نَقَصَ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ مِنْ عَمَلِهِ قِيرَاطَانِ ".
However, there are many other possible animals that we can have as pets and benefit from as therapy animals. If you have the space, a horse is great for both physical and mental health. Other options include cats, hamsters, and guinea pigs.
Sometimes people need an animal friend to help them get through physical or psychological health concerns. Animals provide us with a very strong connection that sometimes can't be attained from our relationship with other people. Animals love and accept us for who we are, they don't judge, and they're don't hurt us. Animals will hear us out without interrupting, will possibly provide a snuggle without being asked, and always be there when you need them.
If the person you are getting this therapy pet for has an allergy to certain danders or fur, consider a reptile or as possibly a fish. Those are great options and will keep the person busy with caring for their special pet.
Do you have experience with using an animal for therapy? Please let us know below.