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Exploring the Role of Emotional Support Animals in Mental Health Treatment

There are many interventions meant to improve the mental health status of individuals with mental health disorders.

One of the most beneficial solutions is to get the affected persons to live with emotional support animals.

When emotional support animals (ESAs) are incorporated as part of the mental health treatment plan, the patients do not struggle to deal with symptoms. 

There are requirements to be met if someone is to stay with an ESA.

First, it is important to recognize that some residential areas have policies and restrictions given by landlords that make it difficult for people to take the ESA at home.

The law protects people with mental disabilities and allows them to live with their ESAs. However, they must have an ESA letter.

To get an ESA letter in Arizona, you need to consult with a licensed mental health professional. In this article, we discuss the role of the ESAs in mental health treatment.  

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Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are mainly cats and dogs that offer support and emotional comfort to people with emotional disorders.

They are an integral part of the comprehensive treatment plan that helps in the following ways:

Alleviating Symptoms of Depression

ESAs offer companionship to mentally disabled individuals, which gives them a sense of purpose.

Companionship helps fight loneliness and symptoms of depression. Individuals living with them feel encouraged to get out of bed and engage in activities. 

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Engaging or interacting with an emotional support animal leads to the release of the hormone oxytocin in the body.

The interaction also reduces the production of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. This bond reduces stress and anxiety, improving the quality of an individual’s life.

Improved Mood

It is very uplifting to interact with an emotional support animal. They offer unconditional love and elevate your mood.

Spending quality time with these animals creates a feeling of contentment and happiness. 

Responsibility and Routine

Living with an ESA and taking good care of it requires you to have a daily routine. A cat or dog that is well taken care of can efficiently serve its purpose in your life.

Responsibility and routine are beneficial for people with bipolar disorder and depression. It gives them structure and a sense of responsibility. 

Distraction From Symptoms

When someone has a mental health disability like post-traumatic stress disorder, they go through challenges like distressing thoughts and other symptoms.

Emotional support animals are very important in such difficult times as they can be a pleasant distraction.

Improved Self-esteem

Low self-esteem is among the most common struggles people with mental disabilities experience. An ESA provides unconditional love and boosts self-worth and self-esteem.

They are the best at this, as bonding with them offers non-judgmental support to individuals.

Enhanced Social Interactions

People struggling with mental or emotional disabilities tend to isolate themselves from others, making them very lonely.

Living with an ESA makes it easier for owners to interact with others.

When they are on a walk or have visited a pet-friendly place, ESAs make it easy for owners to create conversations with other people. Such interactions reduce the feeling of loneliness.

Reduce Medication Dependency 

Sometimes, the presence of an ESA can be effective in regulating the emotions of a mentally disabled individual.

The owner may be so comfortable, happy, and content that they no longer need some medications. It may also help reduce the dosage they take for some medications.

However, that has to be under the mental health professional’s guidance. 

You need to understand that you cannot be protected by the law to live with your ESA without obtaining a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.

You need to see a psychiatrist or a therapist for consultation so that they can assess you and ascertain that you have a mental disability and require an ESA.

With an ESA letter, you get protection from the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that will allow you to keep an emotional support animal in any housing unit, even if it has a “no pets” policy. 

You also get to fly with the ESA in the cabin of a plane through the protection granted by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Training and Responsibility

Unlike service animals, emotional service animals do not have to go through specific training.

However, they must be in a position to have basic socialization skills and obedience.

It is your duty as the owner to ensure that your emotional support animal behaves well and does not cause disturbance or pose a threat to other people. 

Choosing the Best ESA

The choice of the right ESA varies depending on the preferences and needs of an individual. In most cases, individuals choose to live with dogs or cats.

The secret is in choosing an animal whose personality and temperament will match your emotional needs.  

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