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Moooooove over therapy dogs. That’s right, therapy cows are in!

Person petting cow, cow therapy, pet therapy, drug rehab Halifax. Addiction is a wild, messy and chaotic subject. As it spreads across North America like wildfire, there is a growing need to think “outside the box” when it comes to possible treatments, recovery options and ways to fight back. Sure psychotherapy, group discussion, meditation, 12 steps and scientifically proven treatment methods are great, and we won’t be abandoning them quite yet, but animal therapy is fast becoming a new treatment trend for all manner of mental health issues, including addiction. Many alcohol and drug rehab centres are making use of dogs, cats and small animals nowadays in an effort to get their clients re-connected with nature, and to foster a renewed sense of compassion that can often be lost, or diminished, when struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Wait a second, though, what’s with the cows?

It sounds like something out of “The Onion,” but as we all know, reality is often stranger than fiction, and whether you can wrap your head around it or not, bovine therapy is the newest supplementary trend in mental health and addiction recovery. Now, you may be asking, “how does a cow help with my mental health?” Well, that’s certainly the question we’re all asking. According to the New York Times, there may be benefits to interacting with, hugging, and spending quality time with moo-dogs (I mean cows):

“Cow cuddling, as the practice is called, invites interaction with the farm animals via brushing, petting or heartfelt chats with the bovines. The experience is similar to equine therapy, with one game-changing difference: Horses tend to stand, but cows spontaneously lie down in the grass while chewing their cud, allowing humans to get even more up close and personal by joining on the ground and offering a warm embrace.”

A dutch couple, who raises cows not for milk or meat, but for the pleasure of it, have set up $75 sessions that allow anyone to come in small groups of four to interact with the cows. No one involved in the cow cuddling operation are psychologists, psychiatrists, or medical professionals, but are, indeed, cow experts and fully believe that people who come to talk and be around the cows benefit greatly. All sessions are monitored closely by someone familiar with the cows who can sense their moods and help the people interacting with the cows get the most out of their session. The practice, so far, has been completely safe and no humans or cows have been harmed or spooked.

Now before you rush out to the nearest farm to demand a therapy session with the livestock, a few serious (and not so serious) things to keep in mind:

  • This is not something most farmers do
  • Cows can drool all over you, so wear appropriate clothes!
  • Respect any animal you interact with, and remain as calm as possible at all times
  • Cows poop, and they poop big. Don’t wear your Sunday best!
  • Do not buy a cow as a personal therapy animal

All joking aside, any innovation or trend that is harmless and can put a smile on one’s face is welcome in the ongoing struggle against addiction. Maybe cows have their place, maybe not, but addiction often creates a certain “madness” or “chaos” in one’s life, so why not fight back with a quirky, fun, and natural activity that’s fun for the whole family?

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals