The New Breed of Service Dog: Canine Companions for Psychiatric Patients

Psychiatric disorders include a variety of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Individuals who live with these conditions face daily challenges and social stigma that can affect every aspect of their lives. Treatment protocols that include medication, therapy, and social support can help them find equilibrium and balance. Additionally, many medical providers now prescribe therapy dogs to help patients cope with their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Service dogs have long aided people with physical disabilities, and in recent decades have also become popular in treating those in recovery from trauma. But the close bond of humankind and dogs extends back for millennia–nearly as long as human existence, in fact. People have always depended on dogs for emotional support and assistance with daily tasks. And as research has consistently demonstrated the undeniable physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership, therapists have recognized the unique capabilities of dogs to alleviate the obstacles faced by psychiatric patients.

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