Emotional support animals are becoming a popular part of many peoples’ treatment plans – particularly those who are suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
However, to be protected legally, it is important that you receive a formal ESA letter. This letter can be written by a number of different licensed health professionals.
To learn whether your physician can write you an ESA letter, and how to ask for one, take a look at the info-packed article below.
Emotional Support Animal Overview
An Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is an animal that helps someone who is struggling due to an emotional problem or mental health issue. They work to provide the person with comfort and companionship.
Generally speaking, an ESA is a part of a wider plan to ensure the health of the person suffering.
For example, an ESA may also be used along with medication, therapy, counseling, or holistic treatments.
One of the main benefits of getting an official ESA is that they are protected by federal laws.
Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, an ESA is allowed to accompany its owner whilst they live in residential housing, even if pets aren’t usually permitted.
What Is An ESA Letter?
To officially have an ESA, it is necessary to get an ESA letter. This is an official document that has been written and signed by a healthcare professional.
In this letter, the professional recommends an ESA as a part of a wider plan to ensure the mental health of the patient.
It is important to understand that many people claim that their pets are emotional support animals when they are not legally considered to be ESAs. If you do so, you could be penalized by your state.
That is why it is so important to get an ESA letter. This will ensure that you are a credible ESA owner.
An ESA letter will ensure that you are protected by law, and you won’t face any legal consequences.
Who Can Issue ESA Letters?
Any professional who is licensed to work in mental health can write an ESA letter. This includes:
- Primary Care Physicians
- General Physicians
- Social Workers
- Marriage & Family Therapists
- Professional Counselors
- Registered Nurses
- Physicians’ Assistants
The two most common methods of receiving an ESA letter are through your physician or therapist.
To learn more about how these professionals can provide you with an ESA letter, take a look at the information below.
Your family doctor or primary care physician can provide you with an ESA letter as long as they are licensed to practice.
If you feel comfortable discussing your mental health with your family doctor, you should discuss the option of an ESA with them.
They will be able to advise as to whether an ESA is appropriate given your specific struggles.
They will be able to assess your psychological background and determine whether you qualify for an ESA.
You can also receive an ESA letter from a licensed therapist. This is a good idea if you feel more comfortable discussing your options with your therapist (or psychologist or psychiatrist) rather than your physician.
If you don’t already have a therapist, you can search for one online. However, it is very important that you choose a therapist who is licensed and able to prescribe an ESA letter before you begin your first session.
How To Ask For An ESA Letter
Discussing anything that relates to your mental and emotional well-being can be intimidating and tricky.
However, don’t let these feelings put you off asking for an ESA letter – you just need to be prepared! Take a look at our tips below to ensure that you get the help you need.
ESA Laws & Animal Responsibility
Before asking a professional for an ESA letter, it is useful to have an understanding of ESA laws.
For instance, an ESA letter doesn’t mean that you can take your animal anywhere, such as retail shops.
Whilst many are open to ESA animals, some may ask you to leave.
Additionally, you should also educate yourself on the responsibility associated with having a pet.
Whilst an ESA will benefit you in many ways, you also need to make sure that you can care for the animal appropriately.
ESA Qualifying Conditions
To ensure that you don’t get your hopes up, we recommend that you educate yourself on the qualifying conditions for an ESA.
ESAs are not useful for every condition, and even if they are useful for your condition, this doesn’t mean that a professional will recommend one.
If you have a condition such as depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, or motor skills disorder, it is likely that you will be considered for an ESA.
But, you will undergo a more thorough evaluation to ensure that an ESA is an appropriate treatment method for you.
If you plan on visiting your family physician, this step will be unlikely. However, if you are approaching a new physician or therapist in the hopes that they will recommend an ESA as treatment, it is important that you have your medical records to hand.
Your physician or therapist will need to gain a good understanding of your condition and medical history before they are able to write an ESA letter. If you can’t provide them with the right information, the process could be slow.
Service Animal vs ESA
Finally, it is very important to understand that a service animal and an ESA are different. A service animal undergoes very specific training so that they are able to provide a certain purpose.
Service animals are usually trained to help with physical disabilities.
Emotional support animals don’t go through this training. They are simply considered to be a source of comfort for people who are suffering from certain mental conditions.
They also don’t have the same access (e.g. to stores) as service animals.
An emotional support animal can be a great help and source of comfort. However, it is important that you know where to get an ESA letter from.
We hope that this article has given you the information you need to receive an official ESA letter.