November 12, 2021


pets and mental health | gratitude lodge

Pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy can be helpful to provide emotional support to those dealing with mental health issues. Pets can help with your mental health, and some treatment centers are now pet-friendly to allow your pet to join you during your recovery. Some treatment centers offer animal-assisted therapy as part of their programming, including working with horses (equine therapy) or volunteering at animal shelters.

Pets can be an excellent source of comfort, love, and companionship for those struggling with mental health issues. However, when it comes to seeking mental health treatment, pet owners may feel hesitant to leave their furry friends behind. Pet-friendly mental health facilities provide a wonderful option for pet owners to receive the care they need without sacrificing the companionship and support of their furry friends.

For many pet owners, their pets are like family members, and the thought of leaving them behind during a stay in a mental health facility can be distressing. However, more and more mental health facilities are recognizing the importance of pets in their patients’ lives and have started creating pet-friendly policies.


Research shows that pets can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They can help provide emotional support, and help their owners feel less alone, which can be particularly important for those struggling with their mental health. Pets can also help lower blood pressure and reduce stress, having a positive impact on overall health.

For individuals with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), pets can help give them a sense of safety and security, as well as help soothe symptoms like hypervigilance and recurring 

nightmares. There are some organizations that even specialize in providing service dogs to individuals with PTSD.

Another potential benefit of pet-friendly mental health facilities is that they may help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Many people who would benefit from mental health treatment avoid seeking it out due to fears of being judged or stigmatized. Knowing that they can bring their pets with them to a mental health facility may make the prospect of treatment more appealing and less intimidating.

For pet owners seeking mental health treatment, pet-friendly mental health facilities provide a unique option that allows them to receive the care they need without sacrificing the comfort and support of their furry friends. While still relatively uncommon, pet-friendly mental health facilities offer a promising avenue for improving mental health treatment options and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.


Many mental health and substance abuse treatment programs offer alternative or holistic therapies to supplement traditional treatment methods. While animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is not a “cure” for substance abuse or mental health issues, you can benefit from including pet therapy as a part of your comprehensive treatment program.

According to Heart Views“Animals make people feel good – and a pet can improve health, studies show. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide unconditional love and affection.”

Whether you have a pet of your own or engage with animals as part of your mental health or substance abuse treatment program, many studies have shown that animals and pets can help with your mental health.


You likely have experienced the feelings and impact of a friendly dog or holding a cat in your arms. As stated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “most people do not need research to convince them that pets and other companion animals enrich our lives, but studies do confirm what we instinctively know — they do.” 

Overall, pet ownership and AAT have several benefits on mental health and recovery from addiction. Whether you get a regular visit from a therapy animal, help out at an animal shelter or sanctuary, or have a pet of your own, animals can help your mental health when you are in treatment. Pets can also help you maintain your wellness and could even help to prevent relapse, as you need to be well to care for your pet.


Your pet can help to ease feelings of loneliness, which can contribute to depression or anxiety. During the coronavirus pandemic, many adopted pets to deal with the isolation of social distancing and lockdowns. Pets can help you feel less anxious and afraid of uncertainty.

Pets can also help you feel protected if you live alone, as a dog can ward off any intruders. By having a pet in your home, you might feel more at ease if you live by yourself. When you feel safe and secure, you often feel less anxious and sleep better, improving your mental health and well-being.


If you own a dog, cat, guinea pig, fish, or any other animal, you need to create a routine and schedule to care for your pet. You will usually need to schedule specific times of the day or week for different activities to maintain your pet’s health and happiness.

Even “low-maintenance” pets like a fish or lizard can help you create a routine. You will need to feed your pet and keep their living space clean. For example, you might need to replace the bedding for your rabbit or clean algae from the walls of a fish tank. 


It’s no secret that mental wellness is connected to your physical health. When you eat right and get exercise, you can better manage stress, overcome anxiety, and cope with mood disorders

Caring for your pet can improve your physical health by getting you out for exercise to walk your dog. If you volunteer with animals, you can exercise by cleaning up after horses or rescue animals at a sanctuary. Some studies show that cat ownership can reduce your risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases.


Whether you meet other people at a dog park or connect with other volunteers at an animal shelter, pets can improve your social well-being. Mental health treatment includes improving multiple dimensions of health and wellness. Forming meaningful connections with others can help you develop healthy self-esteem and build a strong support network during your recovery.


Sometimes, mental health and substance abuse problems can create issues with the essential people in your life. You might experience disruptions in friendships or family relationships if your addiction or mental illnesses caused problems in those crucial relationships.

As you repair those essential relationships, you can still receive unconditional love from your pet. Pets are often happy to see their owners despite any of their flaws or issues. As you build your self-esteem during recovery, your pet can provide you with unconditional love and acceptance — even if your friends and family aren’t quite “there yet.”


Animal-assisted therapy and pets can help you with your mental health while in rehab, active treatment, or continuing recovery. At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, we understand the value of pets and animals during mental health and substance abuse treatment. Our pet-friendly services can help you or your loved one recover from mental health or substance use disorders. Contact us or call (800) 994-2184 to take the first steps in your recovery journey today.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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