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Posts by Jessica Richards

Emotional Support Animal Evaluation

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Jessica Richards | 2 comments

Disability Assessment and Letter of Prescription for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Many of our clients come to us needing professional confirmation of a mental or emotional disability in order to utilize an ESA. Even if your pet is already registered as an ESA with an official registration agency, you will still need a letter prescribing your need for an emotional support animal written by a licensed mental health professional. Positive Steps Counseling, LLC, offers this evaluation of your current emotional/psychological state to determine if you qualify as disabled. Before you begin the evaluation process, it is important that you understand that you may not qualify. Our therapists maintain the highest ethical and professional standards and must determine that a client legitimately qualifies as disabled before a recommendation can be made. If you do qualify, you will receive what is called a Letter of Prescription. That letter will clearly identify you as having a mental and/or emotional disability and is valid for one year from the date of the finding. It will be signed by a State of Florida licensed therapist. It is important that you understand that additional actions—actions that are outside of the scope of this evaluation process—may be required by you to ascertain that your ESA is appropriately trained, registered, and/or certified to actually serve as a service animal on your behalf. Our evaluation includes four parts, and you must complete all four parts before a finding can be made: at least one in-person counseling session in our office a complete and accurate medical and mental health history as reported in writing by you a secure and confidential online assessment or assessment(s) communication, either in writing or by phone, between your Positive Steps counselor and your current primary mental health care provider (a licensed individual you are actively seeing) * *If you are not currently under the care of a mental health professional at the time of the evaluation, your Positive Steps therapist can become that provider, and additional in-person counseling sessions may be required before your evaluation can be completed. Beyond a Letter of Prescription Property managers, universities, and airlines are increasingly asking clients with ESA requests to have their primary mental health provider complete additional paperwork before recognizing and allowing an ESA. If this situation applies to you, Positive Steps will complete and submit additional paperwork one time at no additional cost to you. You must submit the required forms to your therapist within 60 days of receiving your Letter of Prescription, and you must provide the name, telephone number, and email or fax number of the person designated to receive the additional paperwork. In compliance with federal law, all additional paperwork requests must be accompanied by a signed (by you) Information Release Form. Because your personal information is confidential, we do not release any information about you without your written consent. Information Release Forms are available upon request from Positive Steps Counseling. If additional forms/paperwork are required (for example, you change housing and need to resubmit additional paperwork), this can be purchased separately. What about Inquiries? It may occur that someone will contact Positive Steps Counseling to check that the letter of prescription has been signed by a legitimate and qualified licensed therapist. Information about the validity of licensures is available on the Florida Department of Health website, and any inquiries about letters of prescription will be universally directed there. Federal law prevents us from even acknowledging any client by name. The following are included in this Disability Assessment Package purchase: one initial 50-minute, in-office consultation with Jessica Richards one or more online...

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The 4 Components of Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Jessica Richards | 0 comments

Often times you hear about the physical symptoms of anxiety however, there are actually four main components that make up and maintain anxiety. Our thoughts for example, cause us to behave in a certain way which can also contribute to how we feel emotionally about something, someone or a particular situation. When we begin to connect all three components, we also begin to physically feel sensations that relate back to our thoughts, behaviors and emotions.  Let’s break down each of the four components below: The physical component of anxiety involves symptoms and sensations such as: • Increased heart rate; shortness of breath; tightness in chest • Dizziness; weakness or tingling in your legs; feeling like you’re going to faint • Muscle tension; tension in the face and head; headaches • Lump in the throat • Nausea or other discomfort in the stomach • Feeling hot; sweating; sweaty palms; blushing The cognitive component of anxiety involves thoughts and worries that often take the form of “What if …?” questions. These “What ifs” can be related to the anxiety-provoking situation: • What if I fail? • What if I embarrass myself? • What if something bad happens to me or my partner/spouse/child? • What if I don’t fit in and nobody like me? • What if I have a panic attack? The behavioral component of anxiety can involve: Reduced performance due to the anxiety. If you’re focused on your worries or physiological symptoms, you might find yourself distracted, and so concerned with what’s going on in your mind and your body that you feel removed from the outside world. As a result, things that would be simple if it weren’t for your anxiety—such as a work-related task, or socializing—become much more difficult to perform. Another behavioral feature of anxiety is avoidance. Avoiding what you’re anxious about usually makes the anxiety subside in the short-term. If you’re anxious about socializing, or flying, or public speaking, or leaving the house, then by avoiding those situations leads you can avoid feeling anxious for the time being. However, avoidance winds up severely restricting what you can do and negatively affecting your day-to-day life. And when you do try to—or are forced to—face one of those situations, the anxiety returns stronger than ever The emotional component of anxiety consists of: Emotions typically associated with anxiety such as fear, dread, panic. Anxiety can also lead to other emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness and depression. Jessica Richards Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern I am a dedicated, motivated and passionate counselor who prides myself in providing quality treatment for young adults struggling with anxiety. I have assisted my clients in gaining a peace of mind and sense of serenity. I specialize in helping college students and adolescents overcome low self-esteem, anxiety and panic...

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Anxiety in College: Know the Facts

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Jessica Richards | 0 comments

College can be stressful. Not only are you trying to figure out which class to make it to next you also have to juggle: Full-time or part-time employment. Student loans. Decisions about your career and the rest of your life. Maintaining relationships with friends, family and significant others. If you have enough ramen noodles to get you through until you receive your next loan disbursement! It’s no wonder that you feel stressed and overwhelmed! However, did you know that often times that stress and overwhelming feeling can actually be signs and symptoms of anxiety?  Let’s look at some of the facts about anxiety and what college students face: 75% of young adults experience their first anxiety episode by the age of 22.  80% of young adults say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concerns on college campuses.  Anxiety can feel so overwhelming that it impacts the ability to work, study, interact with people, or follow a daily routine. If you are experiencing any of the feelings below, you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety: Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate Sweating Trembling or shaking Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering Feelings of choking Chest pain or discomfort Nausea or abdominal distress Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint Chills or heat sensations Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations) Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) Fear of losing control or “going crazy” Fear of dying Reference: http://www.adaa.org/ Jessica Richards Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern I am a dedicated, motivated and passionate counselor who prides myself in providing quality treatment for young adults struggling with anxiety. I have assisted my clients in gaining a peace of mind and sense of serenity. I specialize in helping college students and adolescents overcome low self-esteem, anxiety and panic...

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Puppy Love: Five Ways Emotional Support Animals Show Their Love

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Positive Steps | 0 comments

by Jessica Richards, MA, RMHCI   The strength of the human-animal bond has been recognized for a long time, but exactly how the relationship benefits our mental health is still somewhat of a mystery. Sometimes I am asked, “How can an animal—or more specifically, a dog—be an emotional support for a human?” With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d share the many ways dogs can share and express what we’ve come to understand as “love.” 1. Affection If you are feeling lonely, isolated, sad, anxious, worried, scared, depressed— or really any other negative emotion— the affection of an animal will undoubtedly impact your life in a positive way! There’s no doubt, dogs and cats serving in the role of Emotional Support Animals, can be incredibly affectionate creatures. They love to share their emotion with us, and they express it in different types of ways…such as, licking your face! If you allow them to do so, they will express their love wholeheartedly. Often times, they will lick you in an attempt to groom you. This expression of love is how they show intimacy. It’s how they express love and care for each other in the wild, and if you don’t mind a “walk on the wild side” from time to time, they’re very happy to share it with you! Other forms of affection are when an animal jumps on you or leans on you. This can be their way of saying, “Hey! I’m here for you!” If there is ever a time you forget, they will be there to remind you that you are not alone — that they still love you. 2. Attachment Sometimes our relationships with family, friends, or significant others can be somewhat complicated, stressful, or tense, and this can lead to feeling lonely or depressed, angry or anxious. But relationships with a dog are never complicated. Your little (or large) animal friend will be there to share their love and to support you. Dogs sometimes express their love and concern for you by following in your footsteps. Sometimes it’s as if they are our shadow. They want to make sure that you are not leaving them behind, and that, if you go somewhere, they will be right there, by your side, helping you through whatever you experience. No human-to-human relationship will ever be quite like the one you will experience with an animal. This is why the attachment between humans and animals is such an important aspect of our overall mental health and well-being. Just take a look at this article from Psychology Today on human-animal attachment theory: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201202/how-emotionally-attached-are-you-your-pet 3. Happiness Dogs express happiness in their own ways. If you ever leave the house for an extended amount of time, guess who will be there waiting patiently for your arrival? And who will greet you at the door? Yep! Your dog will love that you are home and will want to show you that they missed you. They will want to see how you are doing and check in with you. They might sniff you all over as if they are “checking you out.” With the sense of smell being so important to a dog, it may just be that they learn much of what they need to know about your mood and your day just from your scent! We receive our dogs’ love and feel happiness from the “happy hormone,” Oxycontin. Studies have shown that merely seeing our pets stimulates our bodies to produce higher levels of Oxycontin than when we can’t see them. Imagine how high our Oxycontin levels might get...

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