a young man holds his dog at a pet therapy program in msWhen someones struggle with substance use or co-occurring mental health disorders, the substance or anxiety, depression, etc. can quickly consume all aspects of their lives. Friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships may all suffer as a result. The only connection left is sometimes with a pet. A pet provides individuals with affection and support, no matter what their life may look like to others. This bond is unique and powerful, so at Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center, we tap into this special relationship with our pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, program. Registered therapy dogs and their trained handlers join us on campus to engage with residents and help reduce the anxiety and stress that can often accompany being away from home.


There are many advantages to a pet therapy program. In addition to having a friend who is there to support and love unconditionally, there are proven health benefits like lowering anxiety levels and improving the immune system. For those who struggle to connect with people, caring for a pet can increase empathy and compassion, thereby improving interpersonal skills. This character-building aspect of a pet therapy program facilitates stronger relationships with other people. 

After leaving Stonewater, a pet can be crucial to relapse prevention. Caring for a pet can help distract individuals from their cravings as they focus an animal who is depending on them. Additionally, for those who struggle with panic attacks, anxiety or depression, an animal can be trained to sense these problems. The animal can recognize certain mental health symptoms and help calm the person to prevent further emotional distress. 

An additional benefit of owning a pet after treatment is that the pet will help in breaking the ice with peers. After all, who doesn’t want to come up and ask if they can pet your buddy? This conversation starter can help adolescents begin to open up to new people and get to know them. 


Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center is a dual-diagnosis treatment program for boys ages 12-18. We treat a variety of substance use and mental health disorders. In addition to our pet therapy program, we also offer a variety of other therapeutic programs, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Adventure therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Music therapy

To learn more about our pet therapy program, call Stonewater today at 662.373.2828.