Happy April! Topic – Service Animals

As we enter the second week of April, spring is in full swing. I hope everyone approaches their work with a renewed sense of life and vigor as you see all the beauty of nature in full bloom.

In this month’s issue, I want to focus on providing education about emotional support animals vs. service animals.

When my husband and I were first married, he relied on a Seeing Eye dog to travel, and I gained firsthand experience in the importance of educating the public to facilitate the guide dog user’s travel success.

For example, I remember often needing to tell others about the importance of not petting the dog or sneaking food if the dog is to work effectively.

In this month’s issue, I want to help therapists understand the importance of our role in providing letters for ESA letters to clients.

As a therapist, you may be asked by your clients to write a letter supporting their request to obtain an emotional support animal. While this concept may be unfamiliar to some mental health professionals, it is important to understand the differences between emotional support and service animals and the federal laws in the United States that pertain to these animals in the areas of housing, travel, and public accommodation.

Service Animals

Service animals are animals that have received special training to help a person with a physical, sensory, cognitive, or psychiatric disability. These animals are protected by Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their work must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Emotional Support Animals

On the other hand, emotional support animals, sometimes known as comfort animals, may help provide support to an individual by helping mitigate symptoms of depression, relieving loneliness, and/or providing companionship.

However, these animals are not trained to provide a service to a person with a disability and are not covered by the ADA.

As a mental health professional, it is essential to consult laws in your specific jurisdiction regarding emotional support animals since they vary from place to place. Emotional support animals do not have specialized training, and these animals are not protected by the ADA.

Under the ADA, the owner of a housing facility is required to allow a service animal on the premises, and the owner is not allowed to charge a fee or deposit for the service animal.

Additionally, owners of the housing may be required to allow emotional support animals for persons with psychiatric or other disabilities. Landlords may require proof of disability and verification that the animal is an emotional support animal.

Under the ADA, service animals must be allowed to travel with the person with a disability. The transportation provider may not charge a fee for the animal, and the person with a disability is not required to provide prior notice.

Individuals wishing to travel with an emotional support animal on an airplane may be required to provide documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating the person’s mental health diagnosis.

Verified service animals are covered by the ADA and must be permitted in public spaces such as restaurants and shopping centers. Emotional support and therapy animals are not protected by the ADA and should not be allowed in public places unless the establishment permits pets or other animals.

When faced with a request to write a letter for a client related to emotional support and/or service animals, it is important to verify the client’s psychiatric disability and the need for the animal in the client’s treatment.

Professionals should also understand that the illegitimate use of emotional support animals confuses the public and may ultimately jeopardize the effective working relationship of the person who uses a service animal to mitigate the effects of their disability.

If the therapist determines the ESA letter is necessary for the patient’s proper functioning, the letter of verification should include the professional’s license, state or jurisdiction of the license, the date(s) of the license, the individual’s clinical diagnosis, a statement that the individual is under the care of this professional, and that the animal is necessary for the individual’s functioning/treatment.


If you would like more information, check out some of the additional resources below:

I hope this information is useful to you. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me about this topic or other accessibility concerns.

If you are interested in wellness coaching or therapy and are looking for help for a disability or chronic illness, are in the military or a military family member, or are seeking Christian-centered services, please contact me through my website: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/

Best regards,

Kimberly R. Duff MS, LPC, CRC

Owner and Therapist, Overcomers Counseling, LLC

Hello, all of my friends!

Thank you for your support of my personal and professional goals. Being a therapist with a disability isn’t easy, but having wonderful clients and colleagues makes all the effort so rewarding.

Spring is an exciting time of growth as we see trees and flowers explode with beauty. Yet, it may be hard to find beauty or purpose after receiving a new diagnosis or acquiring a new physical disability.

I encourage others to look at this time of year as a way to reflect on their personal health and wellness goals. Is this a good time to start a walking routine, or do you or someone you know need help organizing the many therapy and doctor appointments that come with a new disability or chronic condition?

I am excited to announce the newest service for those with a disability at Overcomers Counseling, LLC:

Christian wellness coaching for persons with a newly acquired disability or newly received chronic illness diagnosis. This service is perfect for those who:

  • Are looking for resources for an employee with a newly diagnosed disability.
  • Need a friend who personally experienced a devastating diagnosis and a complex rehabilitation process.
  • Are looking for an expert on the medical and psychological aspects of disabilities.
  • Live out of the state of Georgia Need help navigating decisions related to their new diagnosis.
  • Need help understanding all of the new medical jargon.
  • Are looking for help making decisions about their future career and personal goals.
  • Need help navigating the confusing world of vocational rehabilitation.

Keep in mind that coaching does not take the place of mental health counseling.

Contact Overcomers Counseling for a free 15-minute consultation on therapy versus coaching and to see if you are a good fit for this service. To contact me, go to https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/contact/.

Virtual therapy continues to be available for persons throughout the state of Georgia.

Welcome to the summer newsletter for Overcomers Counseling!

I hope everyone is staying cool during these hot months. I’m trying to find the perfect balance between my love of coffee and my need to feel chill. Today, I’m writing to share important updates that include the ability to accept new insurance plans and an exciting feature story that highlights my personal story and the mission of Overcomers Counseling.

So, let’s cut to the chase with all my news. First, I joined a company called Headway which will allow me to accept Aetna, Anthem/Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia, Cigna, Oxford, Oscar Health and United Healthcare Insurances. I continue to accept Humana, Tricare and private pay as well. I’m using Headway to manage my billing and admin work, so that I can focus my energy on our time together. Headway manages everything related to payments and insurance, and clients have found that they make it really easy. They’ll send you an email directly, prompting you to create an account and provide your insurance information and a credit card for your copay or deductible. Headway will use your existing insurance benefits, which will determine your cost per session. When you’re ready to get started in the process, visit my personal headway link at https://headway.co/providers/kimberly-duff.

Next, I’m very excited to share a feature on my personal history and business by the writers at Canvas Rebel. Be sure to check it out by going to https://canvasrebel.com/meet-kimberly-duff/

In closing, I’m a phone call or email away if you or someone you know wants to explore the counseling process or schedule an appointment. I want to be there for anyone struggling with mental health, physical health or family issues. As a counselor with over 15 years of experience, I specialize in Christian counseling, disability and chronic illness, and military and their family members. Visit me online at https://www.kimberlyduff.com or send a secure email to [email protected] for more information.

Raindrops on Roses – 3 Ways to Control Your Thoughts and Foster Resilience

3 Ways to Foster Resilience

Raindrops​ on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

 Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

​When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

As a child with pediatric brain cancer, I recall listening to this song while in the hospital over and over to get through the many struggles I encountered. 

This song describes something  that psychologists and counselors study and try to impart during therapy… the impact of our thoughts on our feelings and overall mood. 

Here I examine  3 ways to foster this resilience and pattern of thinking including  developing an optimistic outlook through interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy,meditating on scripture  and using imagery and mindfulness to foster psychological well-being.

Continue Reading

5 Simple Self-Care Practices to Help Improve Your Mental Health

Self-Care Practices for Mental Health

This is a guest post on 5 Simple Self-Care Practices by Brad Krause from SelfCaring.info. Brad is dedicated to helping people discover that we all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care.

When life gets busy, it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself. Many things can get in the way of putting yourself first, such as work commitments and time with friends and family. However, it’s important to practice self-care because if you don’t, your mental health can suffer. Here are some simple ways that you can improve your physical and mental health, so you can start living the best life possible.

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Three Tactics to Help You Take Control of Your Life

The following entry contains 3 resources to help you establish a sense of organization and control in your life.  Planning and making priorities in life allows you to gain a clear picture of what is important. This planning helps us stay focused so we can reach our goals.  Here, I present 3 strategies to gaining control and becoming organized through the use of a calendar, planner or other list, expressing yourself through a journal or diary, and approaching chores or other family responsibilities by the use of a systematic method.

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Do It Afraid! 5 Steps For Chasing Your Dream When The Dream Seems Impossible

In 2010-2011, my husband and I faced a huge decision about the future of our family.     As I turned 35, I became aware that my biological clock was ticking and I had very little time to decide if I was to have children.  Because we were both blind, the decision of having children was something we put off due to the sheer logistics of the endeavor.  The concerns that had to be faced included health concerns, financial, and practical issues.  Yet, despite the many factors that made this undertaking seem impossible, my husband and I could not let go of the yearning for something more and the desire to go for the dream I had dreamed since I was a little girl.  We decided to face our fears and we stepped off the cliff of life and entered this crazy phase of life we call “parenthood.” The rewards of parenting have far outweighed the challenges, and it all began with us deciding to act even though we were afraid.

Sometimes in life you have to be willing to “do it afraid!” Here are some steps to help you take stock, consider your options, and move forward even if you’re scared: Continue reading “Do It Afraid! 5 Steps For Chasing Your Dream When The Dream Seems Impossible”

Fun and Vitality for the Newly Blind and Visually Impaired

In January, 2017, Irish athlete Sinead Kane became the first legally blind woman to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

For persons who are newly blind and visually impaired, there is often an inner struggle and overwhelming sense of boredom as they come to a belief that their active lifestyle has grinded to a halt after the vision loss. With the thoughtful application of some simple principles and activities, however, it is possible for a newly blind person to once again realize the many benefits of an active lifestyle.

In this entry, we examine the role of fun and vitality in the rehabilitation of persons with vision loss including social and psychological benefits of fun and recreation, how to discover what is fun for each individual, and examples of recreation for persons who are blind and visually impaired.  Nancy Parkin Bashizi, director at Vision Rehabilitation Services (VRS) in Smyrna, Georgia, provides useful information about the impact of these types of activities on social and psychological well-being and presents a variety of adaptive activities and a list of resources for the blind and visually impaired. Continue reading “Fun and Vitality for the Newly Blind and Visually Impaired”

How Does My Faith Help Me Overcome My Problems?

The following blog was written by guest blogger and friend Kimberleigh S Daniels. I asked her to write about the role of spirituality in facing problems. As I read, I found similarities to techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Ms. Daniels uses a combination of Christian counseling techniques that include prayer, Bible reading, speaking her faith out loud and reciting scriptures to overcome her problems. This is similar to the guidance and support I provide during a counseling session. Ms. Daniels does a fabulous job of being her “own therapist” and illustrating how one can use his or her own spirituality to overcome the challenges of life. 

How Does My Faith Help Me Overcome My Problems?

I have experienced my share of problems, some brought on by my own poor choices and others brought on by various factors that I had no control over. Some have lasted for but a brief time and others have long ago worn out their welcome. I have made it through the darkest seasons of my life because the truth I know is greater than what I feel. Continue reading “How Does My Faith Help Me Overcome My Problems?”

3 Steps for Overcoming Adversity

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it,” Helen Keller

What is the meaning of our suffering?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  What is the difference in the person who encounters disability or illness and accomplishes great things versus the one who becomes angry and despondent after adversity?

In this entry, I examine the importance of finding meaning in our challenges, the role of psychological resilience in dealing with our problems, and using suffering to learn and grow. Continue reading “3 Steps for Overcoming Adversity”