The late 2016 death of iconic Star Wars actress, humorist, and writer Carrie Fisher left millions of fans around the world in mourning. Fisher, who was an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, was famously forthright about her lifelong struggles with drug and alcohol addiction — as well as how her substance abuse problems exacerbated her bipolar disorder. Many have credited her honesty for helping them overcome their own substance abuse struggles, reports Summit Behavioral Health a NJ addiction treatment center.
In later years, Fisher also became famous for appearing on TV shows and interviews with her beloved therapy dog, Gary Fisher. 1 In an interview before her death, Fisher said she acquired the French bulldog to help with her bipolar disorder.
In fact, there is plenty of scientific research to support the link between positive mental health and service or therapy pets.2 Service and therapy dogs have been shown to help patients suffering with heart failure, autism, dementia, anxiety, and other conditions.
Therapy Dogs vs. Service Dogs
The terms “service dog” and “therapy dog” 3 are often used interchangeably, however, there is an important difference between them. Generally, service dogs are permitted to access public places with their owners that are otherwise restricted to animals. In many cases, service dogs are bred to assist with specific mobility issues or health conditions, such as blindness or an individual who is wheelchair-bound. The Americans with Disabilities Act has set forth specific criteria an animal must meet4 before it can be considered a service dog.
By contrast, owners of therapy dogs may not be permitted to take their animals with them when they enter a public place that’s off-limits to pets. In fact, many organizations that train service dogs recommend not training an animal to act as both a service dog and a therapy dog, as a service dog is specifically trained to ignore the public while it helps its owner. Because service dogs are working animals, they also require adequate down time to ensure they don’t experience burn out or stress overload.
How Therapy Dogs Can Help
Therapy dogs can help individuals in recovery by providing companionship and encouraging a more active lifestyle. In many cases, even the simple acts of caring for an animal can help someone in recovery focus on positive tasks that take their mind off the struggles of overcoming addiction.
People who own therapy dogs also find that going out with their dog enables them to meet new people, which can prevent isolation and loneliness. Most people are naturally attracted to dogs and are likely to approach the dog’s owner to pet the dog and ask about it.
Contact Summit Behavioral Health
At Summit Behavioral Health, a NJ addiction treatment center, we offer both inpatient and residential treatment programs for drug and alcohol dependency disorders. Want to learn more about us? Give us a call at 1-844-64-DETOX or visit us online to speak to our staff today.
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1 Gary Fisher https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/12/28/the-delightful-legacy-of-gary-carrie-fishers-beloved-french-bulldog/?utm_term=.b0a3d0cede3c
2 Positive mental health https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy-research
3 Service dog and therapy dog https://www.petfinder.com/animal-shelters-and-rescues/volunteering-with-dogs/service-dog-vs-therapy-dogs/
4 Specific criteria an animal must meet http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/laws