THERAPY DOGS AND MENTAL HEALTH

By Mindy Lawrence




People who suffer from anxiety often seek a resource to help them with emotional support. An emotional support animal (ESA) can be of great help. All dogs, cats, and other animals are extremely helpful for many individuals living with mental or emotional disabilities. Emotional support animals provide comfort with just their presence.

Difference Between Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs

Service Animals
The terms “therapy animal” and “service animal” are often used interchangeably. Actually, they mean completely different things. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes this distinction.
· “…service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include:
· guiding people who are blind
· alerting people who are deaf
· pulling a wheelchair
· alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure,
· reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications,
· calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.
Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Therapy Animals
Therapy animals do not have support under the ADA. They may not be allowed at certain public places or able to live in places in which the landlord has a no-animal policy. Therapy dogs are not trained as rigorously or for the same tasks as service dogs. Such dogs provide psychological and physiological therapy to people other than their handlers in times of stress. They have good temperaments and calm, easy-going personalities. Service dogs should not interact with or be touched by anyone but their handler. Therapy dogs may interact with people other than their owners while they are on-duty.

The Duties of Therapy Dogs

· Therapy dogs are sensitive to human emotion.
· They show sympathy and empathy by nuzzling or whining when they sense a human is sad or in general emotional distress.
· Therapy dogs often visit places with vulnerable populations of people such as nursing homes, hospitals, and college campuses to soothe stressed patients and students.
· Therapy dogs are even being brought into the corporate workplace, where they make employees feel less stressed and more productive.
Their roles vary from actively participating in physical rehabilitation therapy to giving children with learning disabilities the confidence to read aloud and improve reading skills.
Some work exclusively in one field, such as one particular campus or building.

Therapy dogs are not trained as rigorously or for the same tasks as service dogs. Their main responsibilities are to provide psychological and physiological therapy to people other than their handlers in times of stress. They have good temperaments and calm, easy-going personalities. Whereas service dogs are not supposed to interact with or be touched by anyone but their handler, patients are encouraged to interact with therapy dogs while they are on-duty.

You need a document from your ESA or PSD to begin your dog’s certification. It’s a letter written and signed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
LINKS

Therapy Dogs Can Help Relieve Pain in the ER
https://www.npr.org/2022/03/10/1085740790/therapy-dogs-er-pain

A Beginners Guide to Therapy Dogs and Anxiety,
https://www.therapydogs.com/animal-therapy-dogs/

Psychiatric Service Dogs, Medical Mutts
https://medicalmutts.org/our-service-dogs/psychiatric-service-dogs/

Emotional Support Dogs for Anxiety: A Complete Guide, Doug Reffue - CEO & Founder of Pettable
https://pettable.com/blog/emotional-support-dogs-for-anxiety

How to Train a Therapy Dog, Jen Karetnick, American Kennel Club
https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-train-a-therapy-dog/

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