Emotional Support Dogs

emotional support dog

by Simon van Cleeff

Emotional Support dogs can change a person’s life.  According to the National Center for PTSD, an Emotional Support dog is defined as:

…a pet that helps an owner with a mental health condition. Emotional support dogs help owners feel better by giving friendship and companionship. These dogs are also called comfort dogs or support dogs.

An emotional support dog does not need special training. Generally, a regular pet can be an emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes a letter saying that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for his or her health or treatment.

In most states, emotional support dogs do not have special permission to go to all public places like service dogs do. But, emotional support dogs are sometimes allowed special consideration. For example, the owner may be able to get permission to have an emotional support pet in a house or apartment that does not normally allow dogs. Or, the owner may be able to get permission to fly on a plane together with the dog.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder or any mental health challenge that lessens when in the company of your dog, consider asking your mental health provider for Emotional Support Dog Documentation.  You may be able to receive special permission when traveling, dining, staying in hotels, or renting apartments.  Find the state level regulations on Emotional Support Dogs, then follow up with your airline, hotel, restaurant or landlord.

This article provides more information on dogs and their affect on mental health.



Bipolar: What is it?

bipolar uptown dallas

We hear these statements about bipolar all the time: “I can’t focus because I am bipolar”, “she is just being bipolar”, “he has major mood swings, maybe he is bipolar”, “I am feeling so bipolar today”, “that’s my bipolar coming out.”

What does “being bipolar” really mean?  

The National Institute of Mental Health gives a detailed description of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, stating:

Bipolar disorder includes periods of both mania and depression.

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include: 

  • A long period of feeling “high,” or feeling overly happy or outgoing.  Feeling extremely irritable, agitated, “jumpy” or “wired.”  Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts.
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being restless
  • Sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.


Symptoms of depression may be:

  • A long period of feeling worried or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.


People with bipolar disorder may also have behavioral problems. They may abuse alcohol or other substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. At first, it’s not easy to recognize these problems as signs of a major mental illness.  Bipolar disorder usually lasts a lifetime. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, but some people may have lingering symptoms.

Proper diagnosis and treatment helps people with bipolar disorder lead healthy and productive lives.


Terri Cheney’s memoir, Manic, is a description of what it felt like inside her brain to be manic and then move quickly to depression.  Cheney details experiences from her adult life that range from being so manic she could not speak coherently, to being so depressed she could not move.  Her book gives the reader a personal view of how devastating life can be when bipolar disorder is out of control.

Some of my favorite quotes from her book that describe her feelings are:

“I actually stopped talking. I actually listened. So I knew that I wasn’t all the way manic, because when you’re all the way manic you never listen to anybody but yourself.”
“There’s nothing quite like breaking something – the law, a pane of glass, whatever – to embolden a manic mood.” 

What right did I have to my own despair, with such genuine suffering before me? I looked around me at the pockmarked children, and all I could think was, a six-figure lifestyle drove me to suicide. It’s chemical, I told myself. I didn’t choose to be manic depressive.”

But mostly I long for sustenance – a sense of fullness, an absence of ache. It’s a primal hunger, that goes beyond food: what I really crave is normalcy.”

Well, if it wasn’t for my manic depression, there would be no me for him to marry, period. I’d be some other person entirely. I wouldn’t have those flashes of brilliance he so admired, that made him want me in the first place. I wouldn’t have the volatility that maddened but intrigued him. Alan hated ordinary. That’s just what I would be.”

Manic intentions are always good; manic consequences, almost never”. ~ Terri Cheney

Cheney’s life was miserable.  She was not experiencing “just normal mood swings”.  She had uncontrolled bipolar disorder, and the condition was ruining her life.  As she details in her book, she continues to be disabled by the condition, but with the combination of medication and therapy, she is able to live a productive life.  She is a mental health advocate and on the boards of directors of several mental health organizations.  She also facilitates a weekly community support group at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. Her writings about bipolar disorder have been featured in New York Times, the Huffington Post, and countless articles and blogs. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

bipolar manic author terri chaney

Terri Cheney

If you believe you may have bipolar disorder, or any type of mental health challenge, see your primary care physician or a psychiatric professional for help.  Do not use the above lists of symptoms to make your own diagnosis.





Who gets Depression? What does it look like? How will I know?

what is depression

What is depression?

I love this video created by the Canadian Family Law Firm of Neinstien & Associates.  They published this video to show their support for the annual Let’s Talk Day.  This event helps bring the topic of mental health and depression to the forefront in an attempt to break the stigma of suffering from a mental disorder.

Quotes from the participants in the video include:

I am a mother, a father, a student.  I am loving, smart, generous.  I am alone, in a room full of people.  I want to feel anything, I can’t stand to feel anything, I want the pain to go away.  Depression is not a mood, depression is not a bad day, depression is a disease.  It feels like I am underwater, I need help.  Please don’t judge me, don’t give up on me.

Take a few minutes to watch and see what you think.  Please spread the word.

Holly Scott, MBA, MS, LPC sees clients at Uptown Dallas Counseling. Holly is trained in the specialty of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and holds the position of Diplomate in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Holly works with clients to help them overcome challenges in their daily lives that may be preventing them from achieving happiness. She helps clients with stress management, depression, parenting, marriage counseling, and other mental health concerns. If you are looking for a counselor or therapist, explore this website to see if Holly may be able to help you. 

To make an appointment for therapy or counseling with Holly at her Uptown Dallas Counseling, you have the option of using the Online Patient Portal to register and schedule. 

Suicide Awareness Program.

Active Minds, an organization dedicated to spreading suicide awareness on college campuses, kicked off its tour of Send Silence Packing on September 10, 2013.  The tour is an exhibit of 1100 backpacks that represent the 1100 college students who die by suicide every year.  More details of the tour can be found here.

Are you in crisis? Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

suicide awareness

Active Minds traveling suicide awareness program of 1,100 backpacks representing the 1,100 college student lives lost to suicide each year is taking a heading to California. The tour is kicked off on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, at Riverside City College in Riverside, CA.

Suicide is one of the most frightening possible outcomes of mental illness. If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately. This is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour service available to anyone in need of help. Never ignore or underestimate remarks about suicide. Take them seriously, and make certain that the person in crisis is cared for. And if you think your friend is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone—stay there and call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Information from Active Minds:
An extensive list of web resources can be found here:  http://www.activeminds.org/issues-a-resources/mental-health-resources

Fighting Suicidal Thoughts

Natasha Tracy writes in her blog, Breaking Bipolar, about the effect of her grandmother’s end-of-life struggle on her ability to fight off suicidal thoughts.   In her post, she shares her thoughts as she stood by her grandmother in the hospital and how those thoughts now help her in her struggle with bipolar disorder.

Breaking Bipolar

My Psychiatrist says I have Bipolar Disorder. What do I do now?

iStock_000017908199SmallI had two new patients last week who came in for therapy after being diagnosed by their psychiatrist with Bipolar Disorder.  In each case, the patient wanted to spend most of the session expressing his/her relief, sadness, grief, shock, etc. over hearing those words, “you have Bipolar Disorder.”  I often hear, “so this means that I am really crazy.”  Encouraging the patient to learn as much as possible about the disorder is a key part of the therapy at this stage.

The book I most often recommend to patients struggling with a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BPD) is Bipolar Disorder Demystified, by Lana R. Castle.  In her opening chapter Ms Castle identifies the following common myths and misconceptions about mental illness.  Patients often find it is helpful to talk about how these myths affect their ability to cope with their BPD.

  1. There is no good reason for the mentally ill to act so crazy.  They just need to learn some self-control.
  2. We all get depressed from time to time.  Positive thinking should be enough to turn things around.
  3. Lots of people think about suicide at times, but don’t actually attempt it.  Those who say they want to kill themselves are just seeking sympathy.
  4. People with mental illness come from bad families.
  5. The mentally ill are immature and self-absorbed.  They just need to grow up and become responsible.
  6. Talking about problems won’t solve them.  It only makes you dwell on them more.  Instead of yammering endlessly in therapy, these people should take action.

Ms. Castle goes on to list 10 more common misconceptions similar to the ones above.  She further points out that the use of the phrase “the mentally ill” reflects the language people often use when making such statements.  She does not (nor do I) condone the use of the phrases “the mentally ill” or ” the bipolar” or “the schizophrenic” .  We both prefer “a person with a mental illness” or “an individual with bipolar disorder” or “my sister who has schizophrenia.”  These phrases help to emphasize the fact that the person and the illness/disorder are separate.  The illness/disorder does not define the person.  The person learns to live with the illness/disorder.


If you have BPD, or love/know someone who does, think carefully about your assumptions and preconceived notions regarding the disorder.  Talk openly about your feelings related to the above myths.  These discussions are key to the process of dealing with BPD.  Some healthy, important steps in  coping with BPD are: 

  1. understanding the disorder – its symptoms, treatments, and possible causes
  2. grieving the impact the disorder has on you life
  3. committing to making adjustments (including medication and therapy) to make your life a long, happy, and productive one.
  4. Recognizing you may have setbacks, along with your major improvements, as you work through this process.

BPD is a difficult condition to deal with; however, the more knowledge and understanding you have of the condition, the better you will be able to manage your life.  I highly recommend Lana Castle’s book, Bipolar Disorder Demystified.