6 Benefits of Owning an Emotional Support Animal

6 Benefits of Owning an Emotional Support Animal by Mateja Petje #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #EmotionalSupportAnimal

With Thanksgiving now behind us, and more holidays ahead – among others, Christmas and Chanukah, for the many people who don’t have family or close friends, holidays can be lonely and sad.

In this article, I am discussing how an emotional support animal can help you not only during the holidays, but all year around.

I have personally suffered due to childhood trauma and developed PTSD, chronic anxiety, as well as depression and had many dysfunctional and challenging events in my life. When I was 17 years old my dad brought home a puppy, which was an outdoor dog, and he was not really properly trained. Still, he helped me during challenging times and when I needed to take a break from studying.

It was not until November 4th of this year that my childhood wish of having another dog came true and we purchased a Westie. As a licensed psychotherapist, I provided letters to my clients when needed for a service dog/emotional support animal as I specialize in helping my clients heal from PTSD, abuse, depression, and anxiety. Now it was my turn. My Sammy was raised on a farm in North Carolina and he was shipped down to Delray Beach, FL where we live. He is officially registered as my emotional support animal and in the future I will also add pet therapy to my services.

Many people don’t know that there is a difference between a service dog and therapy dog. They both help however emotional support animal is more limited.

“A service animal means any dog that is individually 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. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair or retrieving dropped items. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that can provide emotional and therapeutic benefit to those suffering with an emotional disability, anxiety or psychiatric disability. Most often an emotional support animal is a cat or a dog but we have seen other animals like pigs also registered.”

In order to benefit from the federal law protection under the United States, a person must have a note from a licensed mental health counselor or doctor stating the person has the disability and the animal provides emotional support benefiting the person with the disability. The animal doesn’t need specific working abilities to become and emotional support animal.” (source: http://usaservicedogregistration.com/)

Ever since Sammy came to my life, I no longer dread to get out of bed due to my anxiety and depression. Instead, I cannot wait to get up and take my puppy for a walk. He brings me joy and happiness and my anxiety is significantly reduced.

Here are some benefits of spending time with your emotional support animal during the holidays:
  1. You will never be alone. You will have a loyal friend and you won’t feel rejected by family members or having to “force” yourself to spend too much time with them just because you don’t want to be alone.
  2. He or she will provide you with entertainment and you will not spend so much time watching TV which is really not the best way when you are struggling with anxiety and depression.
  3. He will make you spend more time outdoors and exercise. Exercise is key not just for healthy weight, but it releases endorphins and serotonin that helps regulate your mood.
  4. He or she will challenge you to learn new things and your life will have a whole new meaning.
  5. My favorite – he or she will be a source of unconditional love.

For more information about registering your dog as a service or emotional support animal visit http://usaservicedogregistration.com/). The process is quick and easy however you will need a letter from a licensed mental health professional or MD. Wishing you happy, healthy, and safe holidays! Stay tuned for more articles on emotional support animals and pet therapy.

– Mateja