Your Health: Wolves helping with addiction

Wolves: we think of them as ferocious predators, but could they also be gentle healers?
Wolves: we think of them as ferocious predators, but could they also be gentle healers?
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 4:09 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Group therapy, 12-step programs, one-on-one counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy - the list goes on and on when it comes to treating addiction. Could animals be on the list as well?

There’s no doubt, dogs and humans connect, but can people and wolves also experience a healing bond? Could they help people beat their addictions?

“I felt very calm and relaxed and stress-free,” said Morgan Aitken, a recovering alcoholic. “My mind was clear when I was around Miquan.”

Aitken is 112 days sober today. Wolf therapy helped to transform her life.

“She came here and said, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’m suffering, I’m dying. I’m drinking every day. It’s killing me,’” said Deanna Crosby, a clinical director with New Method Wellness. “Then she went to the wolves and the wolves don’t see any of that.”

Crosby says wolves instinctively know which patient needs their help the most.

“They’ve gone through trauma. They’ve lived in the wild,” said Crosby. “They walk up to you, and they just see you and you don’t have to pretend anything anymore.”

One common bond: The power of the pack.

“Addiction is about a lack of connection. That’s why addicts connect to each other. And that’s why they run in a pack,” said Crosby. “The best thing you can do to treat an addict is to help them with the connection.”

It’s also about courage.

“Having the courage to be vulnerable and to open ourselves up to this new experience so that we can authentically connect,” said Ryan Lamb, owner of Living Life In Recovery.

The wolves help to teach addicts about boundaries and respect. Benefits include reduced depression and anxiety, increased self-control, improved interpersonal skills, and elevated self-esteem.

They helped Aitken find the strength to stop drinking.

“The wolf walks up and licks her face and everything changes,” said Crosby. “And it’s like one connection she has that loves her unconditionally.”

Morgan’s now back to work and is planning to face another fear and go back to college.

“Having her around has helped us be more relaxed and know that we’re going to be okay and that we’re going to get through all this,” said Aitken.

The wolves are trained and certified as therapy dogs. They live in a wolf sanctuary that rescues hurt wolves and wolfdogs who were abandoned by their owners.

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