Patient Engagement Increases With the Help of Animals
According to Occupational Therapists, introducing animals to the therapy programmes that mental health patients are enrolled in, can increase their engagement.
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Noah’s ART (animal rescue therapy), a progressive, innovative and therapeutic service, developed by experienced mental health nurse, Sharon Hall, is currently running a seven-week course at the North Manchester General Hospital. The course has been designed for patients suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Patients are allowed to cuddle, stroke and play with a range of different pets including; cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats. Occupational therapists have reported a greater engagement among patients, acting as further proof that animals can help boost patient engagement.
It’s no secret that stroking cats and dogs has been linked to helping with mental health and wellbeing before, due to it creating a range of different relaxing benefits. Research has also found that interaction with pets can encourage patients to open up more about their feelings.
There are a number of suggested reasons for this, with the most likely being that having animals around make patients feel more comfortable along with making them feel as if they were simply chatting in someone's home, rather than in a hospital therapy room.
Reports show that men in particular were likely to engage more in animal therapy than other types of therapy. According to the occupational therapists involved, males who had never engaged in previous types of therapy did engage in the animal therapy. Men do often spend more time on mental health wards than women, as they struggle to reintegrate back into society. However, having an animal friend to help ease this transition for them, could help speed up the process.
Sharon Hall of Noah's ART explained: "A lot of the time the animals can be a real comfort, and the simple physical connection of holding or cuddling an animal can bring profound relaxation even at a time of major mental or emotional anguish."
She went on to say; “enjoying a session with an animal can be a major step forward for many patients' recovery from a bad period of mental health.”