The Power of Pets When It Comes to Your Health

The Power of Pets When It Comes to Your Health

You love them. They love you. And the power of that connection is good for your health.

There’s a reason therapy dogs are a common sight at hospitals and nursing homes. Research has proven that pets are good for our mental and physical health.

More than two-thirds of households in the U.S. are currently reaping the immediate and long-term benefits of pet ownership, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association. The survey indicates that 85 million households are sharing their homes with one or more furry, feathered or scaly friends.

Thinking of opening your home to a pet? Consider these benefits:

  • Pets help ease loneliness. It’s nice having another living soul to talk to, even if they don’t talk back with human words. Especially in times of isolation, like during the pandemic, pets offer companionship. Having a dog is also a good way to meet people.
  • Pets keep us physically active. Dogs need to be walked, and both dogs and cats need lots of playtime. Studies show that dog owners are more likely to exercise regularly, which promotes a healthy heart, good circulation and weight management.
  • Pets can lower our blood pressure. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), interacting with animals can calm us down, even if we’re simply watching fish swim in an aquarium.
  • Pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. Stroking, petting or hugging an animal can instantly calm and soothe someone who is feeling anxious or stressed, which is why therapy dogs are so helpful in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Pets offer unconditional love. Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of coming home after a long day to someone who is very happy to see you – no matter what?
  • Pets are attuned to our behavior and emotions. Animals in the home, especially dogs and cats, know how to respond to their humans, often mirroring our tone of voice, gestures and body language.
  • Pets are good for children. Loving an animal and being directly involved with their care teaches kids about responsibility, compassion and empathy.

While there are many benefits to pet ownership, before you get a pet you should make sure it’s right for you. Being a pet owner is a serious commitment. It requires time and money to feed a pet and provide regular veterinary care. You also have to have the right living environment – for instance, a large dog wouldn’t be a good fit in a small apartment with no yard.

If you’re unable to bring a pet permanently into your home, there are other ways to get your “fix.” Even if the time isn’t right for adopting an animal of your own, you can volunteer to walk dogs or play with cats at the local shelter. Or you may be able to foster an animal temporarily. Of course, you can always offer to walk a friend’s dog or watch a neighbor’s cat while they’re away.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2020

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The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

What is cultural competency? There has been much energy around the words “cultures”, “diversity”, “justice”, “inclusion”,  and “equality” within recent weeks. How can cultural competency be helpful in energetic times like these? By increasing one’s cultural competency, it allows a person feel more in control over one’s external world. Cultural competency begins with us. During the last year and half, there has been an insurmountable amount of grief, confusion, and unrest and incorporating methods of cultural competency can support us in feeling less of those distressing emotions. In this final article for “The Journey Here”, I will talk about the meaning of cultural competency and how this is an important practice in the therapeutic room.

I hate to break it to you, but there is no one definition for “cultural competency”. Just in this article alone, there are 12 definitions! For the sake of brain space and time, I will focus on cultural competency in the therapeutic sector. According to Dr. Crawford, an associate professor at Boston University, competency can be defined as “the quality of being adequate or well qualified”. He then defines culture as the “totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other works of human thought.” In the therapeutic world, he would conclude that cultural competency is the state of being well-qualified or adequate to provide services in the context of one’s totality of socially transmitted works of human thought. Cultural competency is a therapist’s ability to communicate respectively and empathetically with those who harness cultural identities and backgrounds that may differ from their own. Without cultural competency, therapists risk dividing or even unintentionally harming their patients. Cultural competency in the therapeutic room is vital in honoring and fostering a safe space in order to facilitate genuine curiosity and empathy for our patients.

At TheraCare Wellness, our psychologists and psychotherapists deeply value our patient’s personal journey in exploring one’s identity. We understand the importance of honoring our patients’ unique experiences and staying curious about their journey. I have appreciated the time and space to share my own cultural experiences, and I’m grateful that you have followed along. Thank you for staying curious throughout this series.

Resources: 

https://www.apaservices.org/practice/good-practice/becoming-culturally-competent.pdf

https://www.apa.org/ed/governance/elc/2012/elc-promoting-quality-crawford.pdf

https://nccc.georgetown.edu/curricula/culturalcompetence.html