Animal-Assisted Therapy for Addiction

Animal-assisted therapy is a fantastic addition to traditional therapy programs, incorporating the mood-lifting experience of animal interaction into other evidence-based treatments. 

Individuals work with a therapist and animals (dogs, horses, etc.) in a variety of therapeutic activities that integrate into a treatment plan. This therapy involves setting clear goals with measurable objectives to effect positive behavioral change. Animal therapy takes many forms, depending on the person, the animal, and the treatment goals.

Reach out to our friendly recovery specialists today at 800-994-2184 to get treatment for addiction in a supportive, accommodating, and pet-friendly environment.

group of people representing drug detox

What Is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

Animal assisted therapy, also known as animal-assisted counseling, is a guided interaction between an individual and a trained animal. The therapy animal’s handler may also be involved in the process. 

The goal of animal-assisted therapy is to help the person engaging with treatment to manage a physical health condition, mental health condition, or substance use disorder. Animal-assisted therapy for substance abuse is normally administered as one part of a treatment program that also includes:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • Counseling


Cats and dogs are most commonly used for an animal assisted intervention. Other animals may be effective if they meet relevant screening criteria. The type of therapy animal chosen depends on the therapeutic goals of your treatment plan.

Animal therapy is grounded on the concept of the human-animal bond. Many people find that interacting with a friendly cat or dog allows them to form a calming bond with the animal. The human-animal bond can deliver the following benefits:

  • Alleviates boredom
  • Increases social interactions
  • Provides companionship
  • Minimizes loneliness and isolation
  • Increases activity levels and movement
  • Boosts mood and enhances well-being

Animal-Assisted Therapy Benefits

Animal-assisted therapy offers many physical, emotional, and social benefits. These include:


  • Enhanced mental health: Interacting with animals has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone related to stress. Animal therapy can also lead to increased levels of oxytocin – known as the love hormone – which can improve mood and overall emotional state.
  • Increased engagement: People engaging with therapy often feel more motivated and open to participate when animals are involved. More active engagement can enhance the effectiveness of treatment by providing comfort and a non-judgmental presence.
  • Social benefits: Animals in therapeutic settings can help people improve their social interactions. Animals can act as social lubricants, reducing anxiety in group therapy settings and encouraging more communication and bonding.
  • Physical health improvements: Activities with animals can help improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure. Physical interaction with animals – grooming or walking, for instance – can also enhance motor skills and physical activity levels.
  • Emotional relief: For those recovering from addictions or managing mental health issues, animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, and companionship. This is especially beneficial for people who are feeling isolated or disconnected.

Should You Get a Sobriety Dog?

A sobriety dog can play a helpful role in the recovery process for some people overcoming addiction. Here are some points to consider when deciding whether to get a sobriety dog: 

  • Emotional support: Sobriety dogs provide constant companionship, which can greatly alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. They offer unconditional love and support, which can be incredibly reassuring during challenging times in recovery.
  • Routine and responsibility: Caring for a dog requires a consistent routine and accountability. This responsibility can help people in recovery maintain structure in their daily lives, minimizing the chances of relapse disrupting recovery.
  • Stress reduction: Interaction with a dog has been shown to lower stress levels, decrease anxiety, and elevate mood. The calming presence of a dog can be particularly useful during high-stress periods or when dealing with addiction triggers.
  • Physical activity: Dogs require regular exercise, which encourages their owners to engage in physical activity. This can not only improve overall physical health but also contribute to mental well-being, an important aspect of recovery.


Carefully consider your current lifestyle and ability to provide for a dog. This includes evaluating your living situation, financial stability, and personal capacity to care for a pet. Consulting with a therapist or a professional in pet-assisted therapy can help determine if a sobriety dog is right for you, ensuring that the decision supports your recovery goals.

an image of a client and a dog at Gratitude Lodge representing animal assisted therapy

Finding a Pet-Friendly Rehab

Choosing a pet-friendly rehab center can significantly enhance your comfort and success in recovery, allowing you to bring your cherished pet along for support. Not all rehab centers allow pets, though, so research and find one that does. Look for facilities that explicitly state their pet policy and understand the type of support they provide for pet owners. Call the rehab centers on your shortlist to help you choose the best environment in which to kickstart your recovery.

Reach out to our friendly recovery specialists today at 800-994-2184 to get treatment for addiction in a supportive, accommodating, and pet-friendly environment.

Animal-Assisted Therapy FAQs

Can animal-assisted therapy help with mental health?

Yes, animal-assisted therapy can help in improving mental health. This form of intervention can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, while also increasing self-esteem and streamlining social interactions.


What is an animal-assisted intervention?

An animal-assisted intervention involves the deliberate inclusion of animals in therapeutic practices to promote physical, social, and emotional improvements in humans. It is tailored to the person’s treatment goals and strategically guided by a health professional.


Is animal-assisted therapy an effective treatment for addiction?

Animal-assisted therapy is an effective complementary treatment for addiction, helping to lower stress levels, reduce feelings of isolation, enhance emotional engagement, and improve the overall therapeutic experience.

image of gratitude lodge | Carson drug rehab

Get Animal-Assisted Treatment for Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, we can help you address any type of addiction in an inpatient setting. Our pet-friendly rehab facilities in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA, enable you to kickstart your recovery with your pet alongside. 

Most people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol benefit from supervised detoxification. During a week or so of detox at one of our luxury beachside treatment centers, you’ll have access to medications approved by FDA and continuous care, making the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable.

All addictions are unique, so all Gratitude Lodge treatment programs reflect this with individualized treatment plans. Therapies may include:

  • Holistic therapies like animal therapy
  • Talk therapies
  • Motivational therapies
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning


Call our friendly recovery specialists today to get treatment for addiction at 800-994-2184.