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by Dr. Becky Spelman on 28/09/2020

This page will discuss two different concepts where animals can assist with someones metal health, one is in the persons day to day life and the other is in the therapy room.

Emotional Support Animal (Assistance/Service dog): A dog which helps with emotional difficulties and resides with the owner.

Animal Assisted Therapy: The Therapist brings a dog to the session to assist with the Therapy.

Emotional Support Animal (Assistance/Service dog)

Service animals are trained animals (usually, but not exclusively, dogs) that have received special training to enable them to assist people with disabilities or other issues.

A service animal typically has a deep and intimate relationship with the person who needs them. They are much more than a pet: the services they provide often make it possible for the person in question to function in their daily life. In consequence, most countries have legislation in place to ensure that people who need service animals are allowed to bring them into spaces from which animals are usually excluded, and to ensure that people who need the help of a service animal are not discriminated against.

The use of trained dogs to assist people with easily-understood disabilities such as blindness is well-known. Less well-known, however, is the use of service animals to help people with a wide range of psychological and emotional disorders. In fact, service animals have a very important role to play in this area. 

Service animals (usually dogs) have been shown to provide crucial support to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, and more; in this capacity, they are often referred to as “emotional support animals”. 

However, as well as providing companionship, positive feedback, and affection—which does not require specialised training—service animals can also be trained to provide specialised support to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other cognitive and emotional disorders and conditions. 

In the case of ASD, for example, service animals can provide not just emotional support and reassurance, but also a means to gradually learn how to develop a relationship with another living being, and thereby provide some social skills that may be transferable to other circumstances.  

Service animals can even be trained to improve the quality of life of people with even very serious psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia; they can learn how to recognise when someone is in a dissociative state and to intervene to prevent them from doing themselves harm, or by alerting others who can help. 

In recognition of the very important role that service animals can play in the lives of people with mental health issues, a growing number of countries are making legal provision for the presence of these dogs in environments from which they are usually excluded—for example, by providing a waiver in the case of housing that usually excludes pets, or allowing the animal to enter places of work or other spaces in which members of the public are present. 

If you would like to talk to someone about service animals, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 38871738 or book online.

Emotional Support Animal (Assistance/Service dog) Assessments & Letters in London & the UK. 

Through companionship and affection, emotional support animals can alleviate symptoms that you may be experiencing, impacting negatively on your life. Choosing to have an animal that provides you with emotional support can be a difficult decision to make, if you’re not sure if it’s a viable option for you and the symptoms you’re affected by, our professional team are on hand to help. Usually emotional support animals come in the form of dogs or cats but plenty of patients choose another animal that fits better into their lifestyle.

Emotional support animals can be used to provide treatment for a range of conditions, such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Stress
  • Fears and phobias

If you think you could benefit from an emotional support animal, our expert team of therapists can offer you professional advice that you know you can rely on. We can even offer you helpful insights into choosing your emotional support animal and a way forward to overcome the difficulties that you’re working through.

Emotional support animals can be registered, meaning that you’re able to take them into many public places where animals are not typically allowed. If, for instance, you struggle with anxiety and are nervous when you’re in public spaces, your emotional support dog can provide you with comfort and reassurance when you’re out shopping, walking, or doing other activities.

The extensive experience of our team also means we can create completely bespoke treatment solutions with you in mind. That means if you could benefit from an emotional support animal, we can also offer other forms of treatment alongside it, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The result is a treatment plan that offers you daily support and provides you with the strategies you need to address and overcome the challenges you’re facing.

Can I fly with my dog?

Do you use a therapy dog and want to travel? If you’re not sure what the rules and regulations are of travelling with your therapy pup (or other therapy animals) we’ve got all the information that you need.

Therapy dogs can be used for a multitude of reasons, both providing physical and mental support to their owners. They are there to offer affection, companionship, and assistance to those that need it. There are many reasons why you may choose to fly with your therapy dog, they can, for example, help keep you calm and comfortable throughout the journey or provide specialised support if you’re physically disabled.

Firstly, to be able to fly with your therapy dog, you must register them. In the UK, there is a distinction between therapy and assistance dogs. Assistance dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that help improve the quality of life of a disabled person. In contrast, therapy dog is usually a term used to describe a dog that benefits people in a therapeutic way and can encompass a wide range of activities. In the UK, you can register your dog at Pets as Therapy, which will help when you want to fly with your therapy dog.

Airlines will allow you to travel with an assistance dog free of charge but therapy dogs are a bit of a grey area and will depend on the airline that you’re travelling with, destination, and how long your flight is. In the US, for example, registered emotional support animals are allowed to travel free of charge. However, British Airways views emotional support animals as domestic pets and they would therefore not be allowed to travel in the cabin with you and you would need to pay.

If you want to fly with a therapy dog that’s not registered as providing you with assistance for a disability, it’s best to contact the travel provider directly before you make any booking. Even if their website states they’re unable to offer cabin space for emotional support dogs, they may be able to provide you with an alternative solution that matches your needs and, of course, there are some carriers that are happy to accept therapy dogs.

Therapy Dog Assessments and Reports in London.  

Do you use a therapy dog or any other emotional support animal and want to travel? If you’re not sure what the rules and regulations are of travelling with your therapy pup (or other therapy animals) we’ve got all the information that you need.

Therapy dogs can be used for a multitude of reasons, both providing physical and mental support to their owners. They are there to offer affection, companionship, and assistance to those that need it. There are many reasons why you may choose to fly with your therapy dog, they can, for example, help keep you calm and comfortable throughout the journey or provide specialised support if you’re physically disabled.

Firstly, to be able to fly with your therapy dog, you must register them. In the UK, there is a distinction between therapy and assistance dogs. Assistance dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that help improve the quality of life of a disabled person. In contrast, therapy dog is usually a term used to describe a dog that benefits people in a therapeutic way and can encompass a wide range of activities. In the UK, you can register your dog at Pets as Therapy, which will help when you want to fly with your therapy dog.

Airlines will allow you to travel with an assistance dog free of charge but therapy dogs are a bit of a grey area and will depend on the airline that you’re travelling with, destination, and how long your flight is. In the US, for example, registered emotional support animals are allowed to travel free of charge. However, British Airways views emotional support animals as domestic pets and they would therefore not be allowed to travel in the cabin with you and you would need to pay.

If you want to fly with a therapy dog that’s not registered as providing you with assistance for a disability, it’s best to contact the travel provider directly before you make any booking. Even if their website states they’re unable to offer cabin space for emotional support dogs, they may be able to provide you with an alternative solution that matches your needs and, of course, there are some carriers that are happy to accept therapy dogs.

What do different Airlines say about emotional support animals?

For airlines flying from the UK, the following three airlines allow emotional support animals:

  • American Airlines – when flying with this airline you will be required to provide a letter from a medical professional.
  • Air France – If you’re flying with Air France you will need to inform them of your emotional support animal no later than 48 hours prior to the flight. You will also need to need a medical certificate that is less than a year old. This certificate will need to have been provided by a mental health specialist who can testify that you receive regular check-ups and need your dog with you at all times.
  • British Airways  – This airline will allow assistance dogs in the cabin but the dog must have received training as a service dog. You will need to speak to BA regarding bringing your dog in the cabin when making the booking.

Emirates and Swiss Air are the only airlines that will allow emotional support animals on flights from the UK to the USA.

Animal-Assisted Therapy 

Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) is a form of therapy that incorporates the presence of, and interacting with, animals as a therapeutic tool. While AAT has existed in various forms for many years, it is now increasingly used as a targeted intervention for patients with a wide range of issues. 

AAT, which often involves the patient interacting with a dog or with a horse, is a therapeutic approach that can help to improve the difficulties they have in social contexts, emotional management, and even cognitive functioning. This approach to therapy is proven to have a positive impact on people with a wide range of disorders, with children and adults, and with patients with issues relating to cognitive function, including dementia and intellectual disability. It is often used with issues including Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD).

In practice, typically the therapist encourages their patient to interact with the therapy animal (usually a dog, as dogs are intelligent, social animals that enjoy interacting with anyone who treats them kindly) as a way to enhance diverse approaches to therapy. Trained therapy dogs help to reinforce positive behaviours and feelings in the patient and to boost mood and reduce anxiety. 

For patients with issues around social anxiety, or problems with social interactions in general, the “lower stakes” relationship skills they can build in their interactions with a therapy dog can provide them with tangible abilities that they can build upon and improve as they become more socially confident. Patients typically report enjoying a simple, positive relationship with another living being that offers friendship and affection without judgement.

The presence of a therapy animal can also help patients to “stay in the moment”, which effectively functions as a sort of mindfulness tool, allowing that patient to focus on the positive experiences they are having right now, rather than allowing their minds to wander into areas that are likely to exacerbate tension. 

The benefits to working in therapy with a therapy animal go beyond improvements to a wide range of psychological disorders and issues. Animal-assisted therapy can even improve the physical health issues that are often associated with heightened levels of stress, including elevated heart rate, chronic pain, and more. Interacting with a friendly animal in a safe, therapeutic environment has been proven to reduce cortisol levels and enhance oxytocin levels in the patient, leading to lower levels of stress and a greater sense of well-being. 

If you would like to talk to someone about Animal Assisted Therapy, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 38871738 or book online.

References:

Boness, Cassandra L.; Younggren, Jeffrey N.; Frumkin, I. Bruce (June 2017). “The certification of emotional support animals: Differences between clinical and forensic mental health practitioners”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 48 (3): 216–223.

Brennan, Jacquie S. (2014). Service Animal Book (PDF). Southwest ADA Center.

Duffly, Z. (2015). Psychiatric service dogs & emotional support animals: Access to public places & other settings. Retrieved from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/psychiatric-service-dogs-emotionalsupport-animals-access-public-places-other-settings.ht

Ensminger, J. J., & Thomas, J. L. (2013). Writing letters to help patients with service and support animals. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 13(2), 92-115.

Fine, A. H. (Ed.). (2015). Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Foundations and guidelines for animal-assisted interventions (4th ed.). London, UK: Academic Press.

Gilbey, A., & Tani, K. (2015). Companion animals and loneliness: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Anthrozoös, 28(2), 181-197.

Herzog, H. (2011). The impact of pets on human health and psychological well-being: Fact, fiction, or hypothesis? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 236-239.

Le Roux M, Kemp R. Effect of a companion dog on depression and anxiety levels of elderly residents in a long-term care facility.

Odendaal JS (October 2000). “Animal-assisted therapy – magic or medicine?”, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49 (4): 275–80.

O’Haire ME, Guérin NA, Kirkham AC (2015), “Animal-Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review”, Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1121.

Younggren, J. N., Boisvert, J. A., & Boness, C. L. (2016). Examining emotional support animals and role conflicts in professional psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 47(4), 255-260.

Wood W, Fields B, Rose M, McLure M (2017). “Animal-Assisted Therapies and Dementia: A Systematic Mapping Review Using the Lived Environment Life Quality (LELQ) Model”, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71 (5): 1-10.

Who can I speak to further about emotional support animals or Animal Assisted Therapy?

For help with this issue speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free chat. We are also able to provide you with an assessment and a letter that will outline your dog’s condition and will confirm that the dog is an emotional support animal. Assessments will last an hour and the letter you will receive will be a 1 page report that recommends adjustments which should be considered as a result of having an emotional support animal.