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Who let the dogs out? Well, the New England Recovery Center actually! We recently introduced a new pet therapy program in partnership with Tufts Paws for People, an animal-assisted intervention group from Tufts University and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Tufts Paws for People is a nonprofit organization committed to providing therapeutic visits to those who might benefit from interaction with a well-trained, loving pet.

Many people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction also suffer from mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety or depression. The combination is known as a co-occurring disorder, and it’s the reason our treatment services focus on emotional well-being.

Pet therapy is a popular form of therapy today, for people with both physical and mental health issues – and for good reason. According to Tufts Paws for People, having a calm and comforting therapy animal has proven to:

  • Lift spirits and lessen depression
  • Decrease feelings of isolation and alienation
  • Encourage communication
  • Provide comfort
  • Increase socialization and sense of community
  • Reduce boredom
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Motivate people

“Since introducing this program, clients seem so positive. They’re smiling and socializing with the dogs and each other,” says Jeffrey Ford, clinician at NERC. “One dog in particular, Felicia, is fantastic. She has her nails done up and painted. The other dog we see is Harbour Grace and clients just love her.”

The dogs each visit NERC once a week, with American Staffordshire Terrier Felicia and her owner Kevin Cummings visiting on Mondays and Newfoundland Harbour Grace, and her owner Molly Secrest on Wednesdays. There’s no curriculum, no structure, just playing with the dogs for a relaxing afternoon.

When warmer weather hits, clients are looking forward to playing with the dogs in the new Healing Garden, a serene place for reflection and mindfulness.

“It’s a nice break from the day,” Ford continues. “Client’s days are filled with counseling sessions, classes, activities, and more. Bringing these dogs in for therapy is a great change of pace.”

To see Felicia and Harbour Grace in action, check out our album on Facebook here.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, call the New England Recovery Center at (844) 500-6372 and we can help you on the path to long-term recovery. For more information about Tufts Paws for People and pet therapy, visit http://hai.tufts.edu/paws

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