Who Can Prescribe An Emotional Support Animal Letter?2020-07-15
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental illnesses. Some seek therapy while others use prescribed medicine from a family doctor. Still, others turn to the age-old comfort of man’s best friend. A canine companion is often an excellent emotional support animal through unconditional love, support, and comfort. Studies show that dogs can induce increases in oxytocin and dopamine for humans, which are linked to positive feelings and bonding.
Emotional support animals also have certain legal protections and rights to help owners. In the United States, federal laws prevent discrimination based on disability. The Fair Housing Act ensures a landlord cannot deny housing to an ESA owner. The Air Carrier Access Act allows passengers to fly with their emotional support animals with no pet fees and helps provide owners guidance as it relates to size restrictions.
To take advantage of these protections, it is not enough to say your dog is an emotional support animal. There is a formal emotional support animal letter you need to secure to prove that the pet helps manage your mental condition. Just who can help you with that ESA letter? Who can prescribe an emotional support animal letter? What do you need to know before asking? That is what we cover here.
Who Can Write ESA Letters?
Authorized professionals can authorize an emotional support animal letter. Any licensed mental health professional can write ESA letters and state the pet is part of your therapy treatment plan. The full list of who can write ESA letters includes:
- Primary Care Physician
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (including psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist)
- Licensed Therapist
- Licensed General Physician
Physicians and ESA Letters
Your primary care physician, or family doctor, can issue an emotional support animal letter as long as they are licensed. If you have a family doctor who helps with your health conditions, you can consult with them about the advisability of an emotional support animal. This is a good option for people who do not want to disclose their needs to strangers but still require help.
It is important to note that just because one thinks they qualify for an ESA doesn’t automatically mean they will receive a prescription. An in depth analysis of a person’s psychological background is taken and it is up to the doctor or mental health professional to determine whether one qualifies for an ESA prescription.
Therapists and ESA Letters
A licensed therapist is one who assists patients in developing cognitive skills to manage symptoms. Therapists are also able to provide the necessary emotional support animal documentation. Quite a few health care professionals can assist, including psychiatrists, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, and psychologists. The professional does need to hold a license. Otherwise, the letter will be invalid and not accepted. Ensure the mental health professional you are scheduling with is licensed to prescribe an emotional support animal letter before starting a session.
If you currently see a therapist, bring this up with them and see if it is a valid option for your treatment plan. If you do not, do some research online to find a therapist in your area. You can also consider telehealth counseling and contact a therapist through the Internet for a virtual session. As always, sites that guarantee an ESA prescription automatically are not valid and should be avoided.
Asking for an ESA Letter
When you approach a professional of choice who is fully licensed or a doctor to prescribe an emotional support animal letter, you need to know what to ask for. Your family doctor or licensed professional will check your condition, ascertain your needs, and decide if you need animal-assisted therapy to manage symptoms. This might be an easy conversation if you have an established relationship with a family doctor or therapist. If you do not, you might need to do a little thinking and planning before diving in. Try these tips to prepare for that conversation.
Make sure you understand what you are asking for. A therapy animal opens you up to ESA laws that you need to understand. You also want to know how pet therapy works and if it would be beneficial for you. Take the time to check out articles and videos to evaluate how a support dog or cat can help. How would this support animal make your life better?
Also, you are taking on the responsibility of pet ownership. How would you return the favor and make the pet’s life better? Some people ask for this ESA letter after they have a pet already, but others look for the right animal after determining their need with a professional. Think carefully about your ability to commit to a pet just as you are asking the pet to commit to you.
If this is your first visit with this professional, you need to provide the necessary medical reports to evaluate your condition fairly. Medical reports and history help to verify your condition and needs. You can always request these records from your family doctor. Without these documents, a professional won’t write an ESA letter for you.
ESA Qualifying Conditions
Emotional support animals are not necessary for every condition and are not conducive to some. Does your condition qualify? Some qualifying conditions include attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, or motor skill disorder. The letter must clearly define and state what your situation is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Service Animal and ESA
Please note a service animal is not the same as an emotional support animal. The purpose of an emotional support animal is to serve as a source of support and comfort for therapeutic purposes. Service animals go through training to serve specific purposes, typically for physical disabilities. Emotional support animals do not have the same access as a service animal, so do not expect to bring them to the grocery store or other places.
ESA and Pets
It is also important not to get emotional support animals and pets confused. The role of the two is very different, and the legal protections are not the same. A pet is what you get for a cuddle buddy or a pal for the family. You are emotionally attached, but it is not for therapy. Pets are not covered under ESA laws. ESAs are part of your treatment and will be “prescribed” as necessary by a mental health professional or family doctor.
Be Open to Discussion
Opening up about your mental health can be challenging. You need to have an open and honest discussion with your family doctor or other professionals when it comes to an emotional support animal. How will your support dog helped with your symptoms? Why do you need pet therapy? Answering these questions will help your therapist or family doctor with their ESA letter.
Make sure you are asking for this letter for the right reasons. If you simply want to travel with your pet and avoid extra fees, do not ask for this letter. If you need an extension of your therapy through an animal, get an ESA letter. If your cat or dog plays an integral, supportive role as you combat your mental illness, get an ESA letter.
What Do ESA Letters Need?
There is no federal form when it comes to emotional support animal registration. In fact, registering your animal as an ESA online does not adequately fulfil the law either. A prescription letter from a mental health professional with the following elements are required to be considered valid:
- Date of issuance
- Written on official therapist letterhead
- Diagnosis according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
- Therapist/doctor name and signature
- Therapist/doctor’s license numbers, state of issuance, and date of issuance
- Your name and pet details (if available)
The letter can also go into detail where you might best benefit from pet therapy. For example, your family doctor might recommend for travel or deem the animal necessary to manage symptoms in the workplace.
Animals are excellent aids in therapy and can help with a myriad of mental health concerns. If you require pet therapy, consider the ESA letter as protection to allow your pet to travel and live with you at no extra cost. Get in touch with your mental health counselor, family doctor, or health care professional to see if pet therapy is right for you and how they can help prescribe an emotional support animal letter.
In this age, getting a valid ESA letter online is a simple and effective way to secure your pet’s status. Consider contacting a mental health professional through ESA registration to navigate these steps as they are the only ones who can write an esa letter for you.
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