Studies prove that having a trained animal companion helps those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders to cope with the overwhelming symptoms. This is true for veterans as well. PTSD service dogs are often a great resource for veterans to rely on for a sense of security as they work their way through therapy for PTSD, addiction, and other mental health conditions.
If you or your loved one is a veteran who is struggling with conditions like PTSD and addiction, the right kind of treatment is out there for you to heal. Learn more below about treating PTSD through service animals, other unique therapy approaches, and veteran-focused care.
Why Do Veterans Need PTSD Service Dogs?
Military veterans and service members returning from active duty often find it challenging to adjust to civilian life, especially when going through the trials of PTSD. As stated above, the symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and include:
- Panic attacks or anxiety attacks
- Emotional deregulation (i.e., angry outbursts, feelings of guilt, etc.)
- Anxiety and depression
- Rapid heartbeat
- Addiction to alcohol and/or drugs
For a lot of veterans, the symptoms of PTSD are so extreme and uncomfortable that they avoid all situations that could trigger these sensations. Many veterans end up engaging in risky behaviors, resorting to alcohol or drugs to cope with the discomfort. Military personnel may also cope by isolating themselves from family, friends, and public situations.
But as a result of this, veterans don’t end up getting the mental health care that they need. Unfortunately, the rates of suicide in veterans is much higher than the general population and it has become a leading cause of death for military veterans in America.
Getting treatment for PTSD, substance use, and other related mental health conditions can save the life of a veteran in need. This is where veteran-focused treatment and service dog assistance can be incredibly helpful. Having a PTSD service dog means that you will have a comforting, trained resource right by your side to help you fight the symptoms of PTSD.
What Is a PTSD Service Dog?
For those with physical disabilities and mental health conditions, there is a wide range of service animals that can be trained to assist with everyday tasks. But not all animals qualify as service animals. For example, emotional support dogs and therapy dogs are not the same as a service animal. This is because the roles listed above do not require the animal to complete a specified training program.
Service dog training can be completed either by professional service dog trainers or the owners themselves. Additionally, veterans might go through an accredited organization that offers training programs and service animal resources, such as Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to find an animal companion who has (or will be) trained to perform tasks that will specifically help the owner.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal (specifically, a service dog) is specially trained to perform tasks for the person in need. Service dogs can help with physical tasks, such as opening doors, or other specific tasks that relate to the owner’s needs. Service dogs use their senses to their advantage as well, as they are able to sense if their owner is going to have a seizure or panic attack, for example.
A PTSD service dog is one that is trained to perform specific tasks that relate to the owner’s mental health needs. It’s important to note that veterans with PTSD often qualify to have service dogs because the symptoms of this condition can be incredibly severe. When it comes to PTSD, service dogs can provide the support a veteran needs to make it through daily activities, social outings, and further treatment.
How Does a PTSD Service Dog Help Veterans?
The specific tasks that a PTSD service dog learns to do depends on the veteran’s individual needs and experiences. For example, veterans who have a physical disability from their time serving as well as PTSD, their service dog will most likely help with physical mobility in addition to emotional needs.
Generally, a PTSD service dog is trained to perform tasks that relate to PTSD symptoms. This means that a PTSD service dog could:
- Act as a guide through crowded spaces
- Remind owners to take PTSD medications
- Sound out a warning as the owner starts experiencing PTSD symptoms or a panic attack
- Provide emotional support when owner is having a panic attack
- Give comfort during therapy sessions
PTSD service dogs are often comforting companions for veterans who feel misunderstood and out of place after returning from active duty, but they also act as a useful resource for veterans to make it through PTSD triggers, flashbacks, and other challenges. PTSD service dogs work hard to know their owners with every sense they have so that they can help them lead a healthier, happier life.
Treatment for PTSD and Addiction
Of course, getting a PTSD service dog takes time and access to service dog teams, training programs, and other resources. In situations where you are unable to get a PTSD service dog but still require mental health treatment, consider turning to a facility that offers equine therapy.
Equine therapy uses the healing properties of horse riding and equine care to help veterans through PTSD, addiction, and other mental health struggles. You will work with an expert to learn how to care for the horse and how to get the most out of your riding sessions. These sessions help veterans to decrease stress, work on trust in others, practice patience, build strength, and prepare for the journey of sobriety.
As you work through your treatment program, you will not only have access to traditional therapeutic approaches like individualized therapy, group sessions, and a 12-step program, but you will also be able to experience the freedom of riding horses and create a lifetime bond with this new companion.
If you are a veteran who is in need of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, or other mental health conditions, Heroes’ Mile can get you back on the saddle. For more information on how our unique therapy approaches can help you, give us a call at 888-838-6692 or fill out our confidential form today.