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Mental Health Insights Through Animal Research

Posted by Brian Spence on Aug 31, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Mental Health, Behavioral Health, Animal ResearchHumans have been studying mental health for thousands of years. Ongoing developments in neuroscience, combined with more qualitative behavioral studies have made diagnosing and treating disorders more effective over time. While the role of the scientist is invaluable in understanding the human brain, many experts continue to refer to the animal kingdom for insights on how humans might better cope with stress, trauma, and shock so severe as to lead to diagnosable mental illness.

Charles T. Snowden (once President of the Animal Behavior Society) breaks down some very compelling points in his article, "Significance of Animal Behavior Research." Along with citing many interesting parallels, such as between "child development," and "social development in rhesus monkeys," he also asserts that, "...social scientists are turning to animal behavior as a framework in which to interpret human society and to understand possible causes of societal problems." For anyone working in the field of behavioral health, the natural roots of human emotion often provide ideas as to what might help redirect or soothe recurring behaviors and issues in a client.

One way to grasp the connection between primal instincts and mental health is by observing some of the least socialized people among us--children.

Developments in parenting and classroom management techniques endorse explaining and negotiating rules, rather than simply enforcing them. Over time, experts have identified the importance of reconciling a child's basic survival impulses with a relatively new design we take for granted--acceptable human conduct.

Natural bonding with a parent (or parental figure) has proven to be pivotal in how a child develops. The basic need for bonding (as we see in chimpanzees, dogs, and other animals) such as through feeding, holding, nuzzling, and vocal and nonverbal communications, is instinctually given by a primary caregiver, under ideal circumstances. Lack of bonding will cause problems through adulthood, and along with genetics can result in developmental delays. Such issues often get more complicated the longer they are neglected or unidentified.

In any case, regressions to child-like behavior are infinitely more manageable when one has the patience and empathy to realize that those behaviors probably have roots dating back to a basic primal need left unaddressed. Those with exceptional patience and empathy are indispensable to behavioral healthc field.

Please contact us if you feel this line of work may be a good fit for you.


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Topics: Behavioral Health, Mental Health

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