Updated: Mar 21, 2022
Humans have known for thousands of years the benefits of having animal companionship. The presence of animals in our lives alleviates stress, increases joy and enhances life satisfaction. It is no surprise then that this effect has caught the eye of mental health researchers (Altchuler, E. 2018).
While animals have been used in various ways to improve the mental health of people for over 300 years it has only been the last 50 or so years that research into how and why animals make such good therapists has been done (Koukourikos, K., Georgeopoulou, A., Kourkouta, L., & Tsaloglidou, A. 2019).
Research into animal assisted therapy has revealed some really important information on the different ways that animal assisted therapy works. On a chemical level when people interact with animals the brain reduces the amount of cortisol released into the blood. Cortisol is the hormone that regulates stress and our flight or fight response, the more cortisol in the blood the higher our stress level. (Machova, K., Prochazkova, R., Riha, M., & Svobodova, I. 2019).