The Therapeutic Power of Animals


Wildwood Farm
Kevin and Bacon

As the sun crests on the horizon and the morning dew has just settled, the non-human residents of Wildwood Farm are beginning to awaken. Meanwhile, two pigs (Kevin and Bacon) roll around in the dirt, and the chickens start to squabble over morning feed. Goats bleat and dogs bark, signifying that the day has begun.

Wildwood Farm excels in the use of experiential therapy, which allows for the application of therapeutic intervention within a task on the farm. Residents are invited to participate in many different everyday activities, including animal care, which is an ideal way to incorporate compassion, empathy, and caring for ourselves and others. Our experiential therapy clinical team works tirelessly to ensure that through routine care for the farm, all residents gain as much insight about the world around them as they can, and how it relates to life in recovery.

It makes intuitive sense as the animal kingdom has been one of the great providers for human life for as long as we can remember.  The earth’s creatures have offered food, clothing, resources, and companionship and have often spoken to us in surprising ways. There are days when we feel so low that human comfort simply isn’t enough, and we start to look to our four-legged furry friends for comfort and consistency.  Whether it’s a cat, dog, pig, or bird, animals teach us valuable lessons that allow us to experience and reciprocate unconditional love for ourselves and one another.

One of our favorite charities, Heifer International is an organization that applies donations towards purchasing animals for people in third-world countries. Each animal is associated with a certain amount of “Ms,” which describes the different purposes that these animals would have in the lives of poor families. The “Seven Ms,” as they call it, include meat, material, money, milk, manure, muscle, and motivation.  These animals obviously contribute towards the betterment of individual lives, but also better the communities that surround them by generating an economy and boosting morale. They continuously provide for something larger than themselves.

Similarly, life at Wildwood Farm allows for resident’s focus to be diverted from their own recovery, and onto a practice that contributes to the overall success of the community. At the Farm, we incorporate animal care into daily life so that our residents begin to get a sense of what the practice of steady care for another life truly looks like. The bond built by tending to the goats, pigs, and chickens, teaches responsibility, respect for life, and the realization that all living creatures have needs.

So as Randy the Rooster crows each morning, he reminds us that each day is an opportunity to begin again. A chance to set new intentions and make healthy decisions and good choices.

Click here to learn more about our experiential therapies at Wildwood Farm.