For many individuals living with a mental disorder, an emotional support animal (ESA) can be an invaluable addition to their lives, both every day and in crisis. Unlike physical or psychiatric service animals, ESAs have fewer federal protections, but getting an ESA letter from the right professional can expand your rights. But who can write an ESA letter? To help you determine your eligibility and accelerate the process of becoming a certified owner of an ESA, let’s look at the different professionals that can make it happen.
6 Healthcare Professionals Who Can Write an ESA Letter
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Who Can Write an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter can only be written by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist. These professionals evaluate individuals and determine their need for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) based on their mental health condition. It's essential to consult a qualified expert to ensure the legitimacy and validity of your ESA letter.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a domesticated animal that helps an individual struggling with mental health issues, providing needed comfort and relief from symptoms. Unlike a service animal, an ESA is considered a pet, not a working animal, and thus does not have the same guaranteed rights. However, while service animals are typically dogs, ESAs can be almost any domesticated animal, including cats, birds, guinea pigs, and more.
What is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter certifies an individual’s need for a support animal to aid the treatment of their emotional or mental health disorder. It officially recognizes the individual’s disorder and guarantees certain rights for individuals to have their ESA in their homes, hotel rooms, and Airbnbs, or occasionally, accompany them on flights.
ESA Letter Requirements
First, the ESA letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and must include their official letterhead. The LMPH must have a valid license in your state when they issue and sign your official ESA letter, and their license number and contact information must be included.
To comply with regulations required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the LMPH must have officially diagnosed you with a qualifying mental or emotional health disorder. They must use specific language explicitly indicating that the symptoms of your condition benefit from having an emotional support animal with you. The letter should also include the necessary language required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to verify that you need an ESA to travel with you due to your qualified mental or emotional health disorder.
6 Healthcare Professionals Who Can Write an ESA Letter
There are several healthcare professionals who can write an ESA letter to help you live your life accompanied by your furry friend. These LMHPs can officially diagnose your mental or emotional health disorder and validate your need for an emotional support animal.
If you are struggling with a mental or emotional health disorder, talking with a personal therapist can help you process trauma and create an environment to promote your well-being. If you attend sessions with a licensed therapist, they are qualified to issue an ESA. As an LMPH, they must follow all the requirements and guidelines, but their close relationship with you as a client should provide them with all the necessary information to get you officially qualified for an ESA.
While therapists provide ongoing counseling and treatment, a psychologist typically focuses on diagnosing the patient with their official mental health condition. They can also provide psychotherapy and issue you an ESA, but they are not certified to prescribe medication.
A psychiatrist can play a crucial part in anyone’s mental and emotional health journey by assessing and diagnosing disorders, but unlike therapists and psychologists, they are licensed to prescribe medications. That also means they can issue you an official ESA to enhance your medical treatment.
4. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses (PMHN)
There are also specialized nurses — psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHNs), specifically — who are trained and authorized to diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, or substance abuse disorders. Not only can they prescribe medications, but they can also assess whether you could benefit from an emotional support animal and write you an ESA letter.
5. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
In addition to these psychiatric professionals, licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) can also provide vital treatment and resources to anyone struggling with mental, emotional, or substance abuse disorders. If an LCSW diagnoses you with a specific disorder and thinks you could benefit from having an ESA, they are permitted to write you an ESA letter.
6. Licensed Professional Counselors
Much like a therapist, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) provides mental health and substance abuse treatment focusing on behavioral, mental, and emotional issues in various healthcare environments. An LPC is also qualified to write an ESA letter for a qualified patient.
Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal?
Unlike the qualifications for a psychiatric support animal, eligibility for an ESA includes a wider array of disorders, including:
- Mental health disorders
- Mood disorders
- Learning disabilities
- Substance use disorders
- Cognitive disorders
- Motor skill disorders
Where to Get an ESA Letter
If you qualify, it can be easy to get an ESA, either in person with an LMHP or online.
In-person: Your licensed mental health professional may issue you an ESA in a clinical setting.
- Online: You can be assessed and diagnosed by an LMPH online through services such as those offered by Pettable.
What to Do If Your Care Provider Won’t Write an ESA Letter
If your established healthcare provider won’t write you an ESA letter, you can always consult with a licensed mental health professional or service that specializes in ESAs and psychiatric service dog certification.
Get Your ESA Letter Online with Pettable
At Pettable, we make it easy to get an ESA letter, so you can start benefitting from having your own emotional service animal. Just follow these simple steps:
Take Our Assessment
Our online assessment, managed by our in-house LMHPs, can determine your eligibility for an ESA letter. This works whether you already have a pet you want to be certified or if you are planning on adopting or acquiring an emotional service animal.
Attend a Brief Consultation
If the assessment determines your potential eligibility, you will need to attend a brief consultation with one of our LMHPs to diagnose you with the mental or emotional health disorder that qualifies you for an ESA.
Get Your ESA Letter
Once you have completed the above steps, Pettable will issue you an ESA letter that makes it official. All you need from here is a loving pet that will serve as your trusted emotional support animal, providing you with the comfort and relief you need in your home or travel accommodations. Contact Pettable today to get started!