The Real Benefits of Emotional Support Animals | HealthTN

The Real Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

Anastasia Iliou Wellness, Fitness, and Nutrition

The Real Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

In the past few years, ESA pets, or emotional support animals, have become a heated topic of discussion and in some cases, a controversy.  Some people who don’t truly need ESAs are taking advantage of certain rules and bringing their “certified” animals into public establishments. However, for the people who really need them, ESAs provide companionship, guidance, and support to people struggling with mental illness.

The Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal

If you’re already a pet owner, you know that pets are great companions. They listen, they love you unconditionally, they’re never too busy for you, they don’t judge, and they can keep secrets. These are all qualities that people who struggle with emotional disabilities crave. Plus, so many people with emotional and mental disabilities struggle deeply with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Having a live-in companion like a dog or cat can provide amazing social and emotional benefits.

Outside the home, in difficult and stressful situations like traveling (airports), big tests, doctor appointments, and parties with large crowds, ESAs help people with emotional disabilities feel more at ease. On top of providing that comforting feeling, ESAs also create a sense of purpose for their owners. Taking care of an animal can make a person feel more important.

Choosing an Emotional Support Animal

Dogs and cats are usually the best emotional support animals. While other pets (hamsters, rabbits, reptiles, etc.) can be cute to look at and fun to play with, they don’t provide the same level of comfort nor do they require the same level of care that dogs and cats do. Dogs and cats require nearly as much attention as humans do, making their owners feel very loved.

ESAs are not required to go through training to perform their service. As long as the animal does not cause hardships, it can be considered an emotional support animal. Unlike traditional service animals, ESAs are not required to perform physical duties (like helping a blind man cross a street or barking in case of allergic reaction). The main duty of an ESA is to provide comfort and emotional support. That’s what makes it so hard for people who don’t need ESAs to understand the necessity that others have. Sometimes, humans can be more stressful instead of helpful in times of emotional distress – but ESAs make their owners feel at ease.

How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

If you have a mental or emotional disability (depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive disorder, motor skills disorder, etc.), you may qualify for an emotional support animal. To start, you will need to be certified as emotionally disabled. Only licensed and/or certified mental health professionals (psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, etc.) can give you this certification. The certification must include a formal and correctly formatted letter. Doctors who are not mental health specialists cannot always give you this certification.

Your certification letter should include the mental health professional’s license information, an accurate date, and information about how you are limited and how you are being treated. You will often need to renew your certification letter at least once a year for acceptance.

Health Insurance and Emotional Support Animals 

Unfortunately, most health plans do not provide coverage for emotional support animals. If you have questions about your current coverage, we may be able to help!

Do you qualify for Medicare? Reach out to our sister brand Medicare Plan Finder for help finding the best plan for your needs.

Anastasia graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor's degree in Songwriting. When she's not writing, she's on a mission to visit all 50 states in the U.S (and to date has reached 41). Anastasia loves writing music, hiking, and playing with her pets (hedgehog, cat, and dog). She loves animals (but not so much bugs) and spends her free time volunteering for The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennesee.