How Emotional Support Animals Can Help People With Mental Health Issues

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( — September 13, 2017) — Mental health problems an be extremely debilitating. While conditions can vary, loneliness and isolation are common symptoms across the board, and sufferers often find themselves unable to break the vicious cycle that ensues.

An emotional support animal (ESA) can fill the empty voids and provide companionship during times of need. Contrary to popular belief, they are not limited to dogs, nor do they require any special training (although some are). As long as they are house trained and well-behaved, that’s what’s most important.

The History of Animal Assistant Therapy

The idea of animal-assistant telegraphy (AAT) was first explored by psychologist Boris Levinson during the 1950s. The breakthrough moment came when he noticed an autistic child responding and engaging with his dog in ways that he couldn’t with humans.

AAT has since been proven to increase one’s sense of comfort, boost motivation, enhance self esteem and decrease behavioral problems. It is now a common treatment for depression and PTSD, and can also help with many other mental health issues. Although dogs are the most frequently used emotional support animals, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, pigs, llamas and even snakes can also be effective.

Qualifying for an Emotional Support Animal

To qualify for an emotional support animal, an official letter from a certified mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker, is required. To gain ESA status most people must have to undertake an assessment to determine whether or not an emotional support animal would be beneficial; and then have the behavior of their pet evaluated.

The Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals primarily provide companionship; however, they can also have other benefits that will make day-to-day life easier. For example:

  • They are allowed to fly in the main cabin of an airplane, providing the owner has a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

  • Landlords who enforce a no-pet rule, or add an additional deposit for registered animals are legally required to waiver any fees, again, providing the owner has a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

  • It’s more likely for educational establishments, schools and places of work to allow emotional support animals on the premises than ordinary pets.

Emotional support animals can also have a positive impact on an individual’s physical health by providing automatic relaxation response, which in turn releases endorphins that have a soothing effect. This can in turn improve cardiovascular health and reduce blood pressure.

Animals react to our moods, body language, tone of voice, and actions. They can recognize when we’re having a bad day and express empathy. An emotional support animal can provide unconditional love that can break through to our hearts in a way that a human connection often can’t.

If you think you’d benefit from having an emotional support animal, visit Certapet.