The Importance Of Emotional Support Animals

A recent article published in the Journal of Professional Psychology, Research and Practice looked at emotional support animal assessments and the importance of creating a standard and comprehensive model for mental health professionals.

“This is the third in a series of articles that address emotional support animals and the appropriate role of professionals certifying these pets for their patients,” researcher, Leisl Bryant told us. “These publications have clearly indicated that professionals are confused about the law the defines how the pets can be certified, what is required and the role conflicts that said certifications create.”

This final paper proposes a model that is consistent with federal law and ethics and requires that the animal be included in this evaluation, to see if the animal can even do what is being asked of it. Also, this model requires that the professional assess the impact of the presence of the animal on the owner.

“The focus of the articles has been on appropriate conduct on those certifying these animals that is consistent with ethics and standards of practice,” Bryant told us. “Clearly the certification industry falls short in this.”

According to a survey by Pettable, men are twice as likely as women to have a certified emotional support animal. Many people decided to get an emotional support animal during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Pettable survey, people with emotional support animals during the pandemic saw their mental health improve substantially.

The research team believes the news industry is replete with evidence of how the current policies are not working and that the housing and air carriers are struggling with the impact of these letters. They say the letters have had a negative impact on others that has been overlooked and that the majority of the one-line certifications are simply inconsistent with the standards of practice.

“Our model is a comprehensive model for assessment that is consistent with disability law and the standards of professional practice,” Bryant told us. “We have proposed a model that will remove treating clinicians from the certification role because it is a forensic role, inconsistent with clinical practice.”

It will require that assessments for emotional support animals be formal disability assessments, something that is required by law, and will remove the risk of role conflicts that comes with treating therapist doing these certifications. The researchers are strongly suggesting that emotional support animal assessments include an assessment of the animal and its ability to accomplish what is being asked of it.

“For example, if the animal is terrified or overly aggressive, it is likely that this animal is not a good choice as an emotional support animal,” Bryant told us. “Finally, given the scant research that supports that these animals do anything clinically, these assessments must include an assessment of the animal/client interaction to see if, in fact, the animal does anything to ameliorate the disability symptoms which is required by law.”

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