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The Benefits of Pet Therapy – Bringing Moments Of Joy To Our Service Users

In the summer of 2020, the management team at Anglian Care decided to introduce pet therapy sessions to its clients. Officially known as animal assisted therapy, these petting sessions were seen as a good way to help combat the mental health struggles many people were facing at the time. As a result of the various lockdowns that were imposed last year, numerous clients were not able to see their loved ones or get out and about as much as they would have otherwise liked. The sense of social isolation was often only broken by the visit of their appointed in-home care worker. According to nearly everyone who has since used the service, the response to pet therapy has been extremely positive.

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The initiative was the brainchild of a care coordinator at Anglian Care, Kesley Stewart, who advocated for the introduction of therapeutic sessions with animals. Stewart said that she felt the adoption of pet therapy went on to make a real difference to the lives of the people Anglian Care looks after in their homes. The care coordinator, who says she is always on the lookout for innovative solutions to improve the well-being of people in her care, reckoned that being able to stroke a friendly dog during a visit allowed people to share their affection in a way that was completely natural.

Charles Cross, Anglian Care’s chief operating officer, echoed Stewart’s thoughts. “The feedback that we have had has been amazing,” he said. “Many individuals said that it had made their day.” Cross went on to add that one client had commented that it was lovely to know that his in-home service providers cared so much. “Although a pet therapy session may be short,” Cross continued, “it is very impactful on mental health outcomes.”

According to the Mental Health Foundation, pet therapy sessions have numerous positive effects on people. To begin with, there is often an associated boost to self-confidence following a visit by a suitable animal. They listen without judgement and allow people to express themselves freely. In addition, petting an animal is a form of gentle physical exercise, something that is known to be particularly effective with older recipients of pet therapy. 

There again, stroking a dog or a cat is also known to help reduce levels of anxiety. Most psychologists would agree that feelings of loneliness and anxiety tend to go together. Consequently, petting an animal is not always entirely about being physically present with another soul but about using that interaction to help relieve daily worries by focussing on something more positive.

At its heart, pet therapy is about bringing joy to people. By experiencing the pleasure of being in the presence of a pet, even for a relatively brief period, people frequently report an uplift in their mood and wider outlook. Although Anglian Care introduced pet therapy sessions as a response to the pandemic, its benefits can go much further than merely alleviating loneliness. They have now become a key part of the service provider’s care offering and look set to continue so long as their clients continue to want them.