Those with pets know that having a furry friend waiting to greet you at the door after a long day at work or school is one of the best feelings in the world. Our pets are there for us when we want to cuddle or even have a good laugh. But, did you know that studies have actually shown that having a pet is really great for your mental health?

The therapeutic benefits of animals have been documented much earlier than you might expect. Dr. Larena Davis explains that the Ancient Greeks documented horses as being uplifting to those who were very ill. Today, studies have shown that pets can help us to feel loved, make us feel less lonely, lower blood pressure and even lower stress and anxiety.

Because pets have proven to be so great for our mental health and well-being, there is an official title given to those who help individuals with mental health issues. An emotional support animal, or ESA, is an animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual struggling with mental health or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are different from service animals in that they have not been trained to perform specific tasks or jobs directly related to the person’s disability. Rather, it is the presence of the animal that helps relieve symptoms associated with the individuals mental health condition. ESAs can provide support through companionship and can help ease anxiety, depression and certain phobias.

In Canada, in order to get an emotional support animal, you need an emotional support letter. This letter is official proof that your animal is a real ESA and not just your pet, and it must be written by a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province. This letter could provide you many benefits, but it is important to also be aware of the limits of an ESA. Travel policies are enforced by the Canadian Transportation Agency and Canada’s Air Transportation Regulations, but laws regarding areas such as housing and workplace vary from province to province. In Alberta, you can learn more about your ESA rights in the Human Rights Act Section 5. Furthermore, it is important to remember that because an ESA is different from a service animal, they will not have the same privileges, such as being able to go into public spaces with you. Be sure to read up on the benefits and restrictions of ESA’s so you are aware of the things you are and are not able to do

At Cornerstone Counselling, the admittance of ESAs into the office or into any in-person sessions with a counsellor is not permitted, however, we recognize that individuals with ESA’s may need them during therapy for emotional support. In this case, video counselling sessions could be a great option for you. You can connect to our team of counsellors via Jane video on your laptop or desktop computer, Android and/or iOS device. For more information visit


Blog post by Bianca Biasini, Volunteer.