Did you know therapy dogs are used for this?

Did you know therapy dogs are used for this?

Often, when people experience anxiety or panic-like symptoms, it’s hard to regain composure or cope appropriately.

Trained service, therapy and emotional support dogs can provide physical comfort in times of significant distress. But have you heard of their usage of deep pressure therapy (DPT)?

Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn, a licensed clinical psychologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal Ill., has expertise in training therapy dogs. She uncovers how DPT can be a positive outlet to facilitate calmness and reduce worry for all.

What is DPT?

DPT is a form of therapy that can be used to treat anxiety (including PTSD), depression, insomnia, autism and sensory processing disorders (SPD).

“DPT involves a highly trained dog using its weight and, sometimes, warmth to alleviate psychiatric symptoms. The weight of the dog applies pressure to the person’s body in places that typically elicit a calming effect. The dogs are often trained to provide DPT by lying on a person’s lap or chest when the person is sitting or lying down,” says Dr. Woodburn.

DPT allows you to take a step back from reality and helps increase engagement with the world. This form of therapy is not out of the ordinary, and the science behind it makes sense, according to Dr. Woodburn.

“DPT works because our senses are constantly relaying information from the environment to our brains, where the information is prioritized. However, when our nervous systems are in ‘fight or flight’ mode, this organization is difficult, so calming down is difficult. DPT provides tactile input that helps us better understand where our bodies are in relation to space,” she says.

Another benefit? Dogs performing DPT impact your autonomic nervous system. This system controls your ability to make unconscious actions, such as breathing, digestion and heart rate.

Specifically, DPT is a positive method to help balance hormones in a calming way.

“DPT increases the levels of our “happy hormones,” serotonin and dopamine. At the same time, DPT helps to decrease the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and it increases the production of melatonin, which makes it easier to fall asleep,” explains Dr. Woodburn.

When DPT is used to combat symptoms of anxiety, depression insomnia and autism, people can experience relief from negative symptoms, creating a calming sensation. In turn, this therapeutic approach has the potential to decrease the need for medications.

Experiencing mental health concerns? Click here to find a specialist near you.

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About the Author

Kelsey Andeway
Kelsey Andeway

Kelsey Andeway, health e-news contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a senior at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing, baking, and taking long walks with her Chocolate Lab.