Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

Patients get significant benefit from their emotional support animals in terms reduction of symptoms and improvement of overall functioning. Studies show that connection of a person with their dearly loved animal can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially when part of a treatment plan in psychotherapy. Just the mere presence of animals has been proven to reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety, stress, and blood pressure.

Many other psychiatric conditions are mitigated with the help of an ESA. For example, an individual with Agoraphobia couldn’t normally leave their home but with their ESA is able to leave their apartment and can go out and get food or medication. Another example is an individual with extreme Flight Anxiety who is now able to fly calmly when their ESA is in their lap.

The nature of many animals makes them instinctive healers for humans. Animals are always in the moment and emotionally present. Animals can act as a buffer for their human companions when the world gets stressful, and help their humans cope with difficult feelings. Many animals can sense when their human companion is sad, angry, scared, or happy. Animals can provide reassurance and unconditional love with their simple loving presence. Animals can be nonjudgmental good listeners. A person’s animal is often there for the milestones of their life, from beginning to end, through changes in a family, births and deaths, moves across the country, and shares the collective memory of the individual or family.

Another way that emotional support animals are beneficial is in the patient’s role as a caregiver for the animal. In this role, the patient is focused on the animal’s needs, feeling a sense of responsibility for the animal which takes them away from worrying about their own problems. The animal is dependent on the person to take care of them and gives the person a reason to get up in the morning and feel good about taking good care of their animal. This dependence makes the person accountable to another living being, which adds purpose and meaning to one’s life.

In sum, emotional support animals provide emotional security, unconditional love, and act as a secure base for their owners. People who have psychiatric disabilities can benefit tremendously from having an emotional support animal present in their lives. For some people, their emotional support animal is the one thing keeping them stable in spite of suffering from severe mental illness.

More and more people are alleviating their psychiatric symptoms by exercising their right to have emotional support animals serve as their companions–whether it’s at home, out in public, or on a plane. If you feel you could benefit from an emotional support animal as part of the treatment for a psychiatric disability, contact me at or 415-642-4662 for more information.

Next: How to Designate Your Animal an ESA →

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Michael Halyard, LPCC, LMFT

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & Marriage and Family Therapist

Psychotherapy & Referrals

Emotional Support Animal Letters

533-A Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

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(415) 642-4662