How Emotional Support Animals Actually Boost Mental Health

How Emotional Support Animals Actually Boost Mental Health

Sometimes, a pet is more than a pet. Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have been a key way for many people to manage their mental health, whether they need help with depression, anxiety, ADHD, or a number of other issues that can cause disruption in their daily lives. 

ESAs can come in all shapes and sizes, from big dogs to tiny ferrets. But how exactly do ESAs help people’s mental health? Let’s go over what an ESA is and how getting one may be an important step in your mental health journey.

ESAs vs. Service Dogs

Many people confuse ESAs with Service Dogs. Both types of animals can be used for support and require registration, but there are key differences between the two. 

A Service Dog is typically trained to complete tasks for those who are physically, intellectually, or emotionally disabled. These tasks can range from working as a Seeing Eye Dog to alerting their owners of potential medical emergencies to assisting with chores and mobility. They can also help owners struggling with disruptive mental health issues by interrupting panic attacks, harmful behavior, and dissociation episodes.

ESAs, on the other hand, typically do not receive training in doing tasks, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important to their owner’s mental health. Because they are not trained in tasks, they don’t receive the same exemptions for entering buildings that service dogs do, but if they’re registered, they can be allowed in pet-free rentals or have an apartment’s pet fee waived.

Why You Should Get an Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals can be a form of experiential therapy. Experiential therapy goes beyond just talking to a therapist; it can include elements like psychodrama, art and music therapy, and other areas where the patient can use experiences to work through trauma and mental blocks.

Animals are particularly good for experiential therapy. By caring for an animal, people are able to get out of their own head to ensure their furry friends are well taken care of, and often can find that it’s grounding to put another living thing’s needs in their list of priorities.

From keeping a pet fed to ensuring they’re properly groomed, animals give owners a sense of independence and responsibility that can greatly improve their mental health. They also encourage behaviors that are good for the patient, such as going out for walks and getting outside the house.

Plus, pets are proven to bring comfort to those who need it. The simple act of petting a cat or playing with a dog can help reduce stress, and an animal can give physical affection that many people sorely need. By having a companion that loves them unconditionally, people find themselves feeling less lonely, less anxious, and altogether happier.

How You Can Get Your Pet Registered As An ESA

You do need proper documentation to register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal. A mental health counselor who is familiar with the patient applying is required to do a full check to see if the patient’s mental health would be greatly improved by having an ESA, as well as if they are able to properly care for an animal on their own. 

Once the counselor has come to a conclusion, they will write their documentation in letter format and give it to the patient, who then can use it as they see fit. Once they have documentation, the patient must register the animal they want as their ESA. Then they’ll be free to bring their ESA into their home, regardless of whether pets are allowed, and may be able to bring their animal with them when traveling or in other high-stress situations where their presence will help them.

Talk to a Counselor Today

If you don’t yet have a mental health professional to discuss registering your animal as an ESA, now’s the time to find one. Whether you’re looking for an in-person or virtual appointment, finding a therapist you trust to fully assess your situation and help you receive the support you need is the most important part of the ESA process. 

Having an Emotional Support Animal in your life can be a rewarding experience that helps you as much as it does the animal you’ll be caring for. By getting on the path today, you can find relief from your mental health symptoms and the joy that comes from having a furry friend that loves you.

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