Emotional Support Animals: A Trendy Mental Health Treatment

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From dogs to ducks and even peacocks, mental health professionals are increasingly prescribing emotional support animals to treat symptoms, like anxiety and depression. In fact, the number of service and emotional support animals listed in the National Service Animal Registry jumped from 2,400 to nearly 200,000 in the last eight years. Through old-fashioned animal companionship, many people are finding a brand-new way to manage mental health symptoms.

What is an Emotional Support Animal Exactly?

According to the National Service Animal Registry, “an emotional support animal (ESA) is a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a person’s licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological disability.”

For example, the presence of a support pet might be able to help someone cope with a panic attack. The idea is that having an animal around all the time will help a person to manage their mental health symptoms.

They are similar to service animals, but there are notable differences.

Most types of domesticated animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits and more, may be used to provide emotional support. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not need any specific task training, and they are not regulated by the government.

Young Asian boy playing with puppy on grass

Who could Benefit from an ESA?

Emotional support animals can provide therapeutic benefits, which may work as a supplement to traditional mental and behavioral health treatment. Canines, felines and other members of the animal kingdom have been used to improve conditions like these:

A man doing his office tasks with a cat in his hands

How an Emotional Support Pet could Help you

Think a dog is just an animal that plays fetch? Think again.

Emotional support animals are being used in the treatment of everything from depression to chronic fatigue. These types of pets have been known to provide health benefits, such as:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Less anxiety
  • Unconditional love
  • Social support
  • Increased sense of purpose

Whether you realized it or not, activities like walking a dog or snuggling a cat, might also be an effective way to improve your mental wellness.

Advantage Care Health Centers specializes in mental and behavioral health services. We provide personalized psychology and psychiatry care for both children and adults.

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