For children and youth that struggle with mental health and social challenges, having animals present can help create the supportive environment they need to participate successfully. Interacting with animals stimulates a surge of Oxytocin, a hormone that is naturally produced in the human body that has a calming and relaxing effect. According to the 2012 Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, animal assisted interventions has been shown to be beneficial for children and youth. The potential therapeutic benefits include: 1)The addition of animals in a therapeutic setting is beneficial for the following reasons: Animals can act as a “social lubricant”, making clients feel safe and comfortable in the therapeutic setting. Animals can also “regulate the emotional climate” with their enthusiastic greetings; this can help build rapport and help clients feel more comfortable. 2) The presence of animals can affect the perceived environment, making it more comfortable and friendly for children and youth. 3) The presence of an animal can provide support for the child during emotional challenges. The child may find it easier to develop trust with the animal, as they perceive it to be non-judgmental, prior to trusting others.
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