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A service animal is any dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.
Another type of service animal is a psychiatric service dog. A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to help their owner with a psychiatric disability or a mental illness, such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These dogs are trained to alleviate some of their owners struggles, such as reminding them to take medication, or even barking or otherwise signaling for their owner to stop any repetitive or harmful behavior.
Emotional Support Animals are often part of a treatment plan and used as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the American Disabilities Act. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and can even help with depression, anxiety and phobias. They do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. A letter from a medical doctor or therapist (such as myself) is all that is needed to classify the animal as an emotional support animal. I find these to be helpful with my patients who struggle to get out of bed or care for themselves. Especially some of my patient who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide in the past. Having something that depends on us to take care of it, walk it, etc can not only keep us fighting for recovery, but also get us up and out of the house every day! There is definitely an increase in abuse of the ESA system. Many people claiming their animal is an ESA so they can bring them into restaurants, grocery stores, and on planes. As a Licensed Therapist, I am frequently asked to write people letters for their animals. Technically speaking this is against the legal and ethical standards that every mental health professional should hold themselves to. I find it offensive not only to my profession but also to the people out there who truly benefit from having an ESA. Because ultimately if all animals are given paperwork that they are ESAs then no animal an ESA. There is no special distinction.
While I believe that people abuse the emotional support animal system, I still think it’s important to talk briefly about why having an animal is good for our health as a whole. Petting an animal can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Not to mention the fact that if you have an animal that needs to be walked, it gets you up and moving every day. More recent studies have linked how petting animals (it doesn’t even matter if they are fluffy or not!) releases oxytocin (which comes from our pituitary gland) which is a relaxation hormone (fun fact: is the hormone that helps us attach emotionally to others), and when oxytocin is released it decreases the release of cortisol (which is a steroid hormone linked to stress and anxiety).
They also believe that by having an animal it encourages others to approach you and interact. Which if we struggle to meet new people and make new friends, having an animal could help with that. Overall, having an animal is good for our health. It can improve our mood, lower our blood pressure and help us feel connected to another being. So if you are considering adopting a pet, I say go for it! If you want to add translations, click the gear icon and go to Subtitles/CC then to Add subtitles or CC!PATREON
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I have launched a new tool to help you journal & stay motivated. I know getting started on our path to self care can be hard and sometimes sticking with it can be even more difficult. That’s why I created this tool! I’ll be sending you messages twice a week, and my hope is that this can help get you thinking and writing more easily, or possibly take your journaling in a new and helpful direction.
Let’s get started: https://create.getpurple.io/p/katimorton/I’m Kati Morton, a licensed therapist making Mental Health videos!CONTACT
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