It’s not uncommon nowadays to see a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA) out in public. These animals provide a wide range of services as well as unconditional love and affection. The healing power of nature and animals is a well-documented phenomenon and is used frequently in addiction treatment. One such example is equine therapy offered at Painted Desert Recovery. An ESA or service animal can allow an individual to live a fulfilling life despite their difficulties. However, can they also help someone struggling with addiction?
The answer is yes, though not in a way most people can think. Addiction is a disease that cannot be cured. Instead, those struggling with addiction can recover from it with the right amount of help. To understand how an ESA or service animal can help someone with an addiction, we must first consider their differences.
What Is the Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal?
A service animal is usually a dog, but miniature horses have also seen use as well. They are trained to perform a specific function for their handler to provide support for a disability or medical condition. A service animal is considered essential medical equipment and thus has many legal protections. They can go into any public space their handler can. Denying someone with a service animal entry into a public space is against the law.
An example of a service animal is a psychiatric service dog used to help people with mental health disorders or illnesses. A trained function a psychiatric service dog can do is to recognize a panic attack and perform deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to calm its handler down.
An ESA is a pet that is prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. The job of an ESA is to comfort someone struggling with a mental health disorder or illness. They can be any domestic animal, but the most common are small dogs, cats, and birds.
Because ESAs are legally a pet, they cannot enter public spaces where pets are usually barred. The exception is pet-friendly establishments. ESAs count as assistance animals under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). A person with an ESA cannot be denied fair housing as long as the animal is of reasonable size and temperament. For example, a landlord cannot discriminate against someone with a dog as their ESA. They are, however, not required to rent to someone with a cow as their ESA.
How Can a Service Animal or ESA Help With Addiction?
When it comes to helping someone recover from an addiction, either type of assistance animal can help. It just comes down to what the specific person needs to stay in recovery.
For those with a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, a service animal can help by performing several tasks. Perhaps one most well-known is the ability to retrieve medication and remind their handler to take them. A service animal can also give their handler the confidence they need to go out in public without fear. Some service animals are even trained to press a button to alert medical personnel should they notice their handler in distress. A service animal may not be able to manage addiction specifically, but they can help manage the co-occurring mental health disorders that often exist alongside an addiction.
ESAs can also assist those struggling with addiction. Firstly, they offer judgment-free affection and love. A dog or a cat has no concept of stigma and thus is a source of comfort for those in need. Secondly, they give people a reason to overcome their addiction, especially if they don’t have immediate family or friends. Many people find themselves devoting the time and money they would have spent on substances on their pets instead. Some even remain in recovery because they want to be sure that they have a safe and healthy home for their pet.
How Does Painted Desert Recovery Help?
Owning and caring for an animal is a huge responsibility. Before someone can have an ESA or service animal, they must be able to care for them. The mental health care professionals at Painted Desert Recovery can help clients prepare and understand what it means to utilize an ESA or service animal. There is a wealth of information and resources available for those who wish to have an ESA or service animal. Painted Desert Recovery can help clients begin the process of obtaining either type of assistance animal while in treatment and beyond.
It’s important to understand that animals can assist in healing, but they cannot replace comprehensive addiction treatment. It takes many components working together to help someone achieve recovery. It’s why care is taken to offer varied and scientifically backed therapies as part of someone’s treatment plan.
Domestic animals aren’t just our companions, they can also provide healing to those struggling with addiction. Some animals provide a service to allow those living with extra physical or mental health needs to live a normal life. Others, such as emotional support animals (ESAs), provide the comfort and support needed to help someone cope with their stress. Regardless of how they help, the healing power of animals is well-known, especially at Painted Desert Recovery. At our facility in New Harmony, Utah, clients can recover from their addiction and co-occurring disorders through the help of equine therapy, a type of animal-assisted therapy. Don’t wait to get help for your addiction; call (844) 540-0353 today.