Rebecca Stone, LMHC
How has your emotional support animal improved your life?
I recently answered the question, "How has your emotional support animal improved your life?" on Quora. Below is my answer.
I have researched information about Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and have been asked how they help people with mental health conditions.
ESAs are a newer thing and the popularity is spreading like wildfire, largely due to misconceptions of what ESAs are and the legal rights they have, as well as pay-for-letter or registry websites that are popping up left and right. For a basic overview of the differences of service, therapy, and support animals, view my magazine article, “Service and Therapy and Support Animals, Oh My!” at www.StoneCCS.com/media-and-community
Given that the ESA classification is newer, little reliable and valid scientific research is available on the efficacy of ESAs. There have been some studies that have shown pets can have an effect on neurotransmitters that lead to positive feelings, and other studies have shown a reduction of stress hormones. There have been few studies specifically on ESAs and the studies have not been validated and results are not generalizable.
As a pet lover, I can say that I personally know the positive effects pets can have on our lives. Isn’t it nice to come home to an animal who shows excitement when we open the door, who doesn’t interrupt or argue when we need to get something out, or who provides us with unconditional love?
As a licensed mental health provider, I have seen the anecdotal positive effects ESAs can have with clients. For instance, a client with depression could have difficulty finding a reason to or feeling motivation for getting out of bed in the morning. A dog who is persistent will usually motivate (or annoy) the owner enough for them to get out of bed to let the dog out or take the dog for a walk. Another example couple be for a client who has anxiety; petting an animal can be grounding, soothing, and support regulation of breathing. Each person’s experience will be unique.
Wondering how to get an ESA letter? Check out one of my other answers here: Obtaining a prescription for an emotional support animal (ESA).