Want to get an emotional support animal but don't know how to ask your doctor for it? Mental illnesses are more common than any of us know. Reportedly, one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental illness that is caused due to stress, anxiety and depression.
An emotional support animal helps alleviate these symptoms and help people get better and live a happy and fulfilling life. But, how to get an ESA?
The only way of getting it is to ask your doctor for it. For many people, especially the ones that are new to the concept, asking their doctor is difficult, since they do not know how to do it.
In this blog, we will discuss the steps that are involved in asking your doctor or therapist for an ESA prescription.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is the term given to those animals that provide some form of comfort and support to its owner. While dogs and cats remain the most common ESAs, there are many animals, and quite unusual ones also, that qualify to be an emotional support animal.
There is no law that tells you or anyone about the type of animal and breed to keep as an ESA and everyone is free to choose whatever animal they like. Some common choices, other than a dog and a cat, are parrots, pigeons, goats, turkey, ducks, chickens, rabbits, hamsters etc. choices are endless.
What is an ESA Letter?
An Emotional Support Animal letter is a prescription letter from a licensed mental health professional. The doctor examines the patient and explains his or her condition and why the patient would benefit from an ESA.
An ESA letter is the only certification you need for your companion animal. If you have a valid letter, you can avail the benefits it comes with.
A legitimate ESA letter makes the owner eligible for a number of other benefits also. These benefits come under the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, all of which make it possible for the ESA owner to have a comfortable life.
How to Ask the Doctor for an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
Asking your doctor to prescribe an emotional support dog or animal could be quite challenging for many people. Especially if they are suffering from a mental disorder because then they will not know how to communicate the matter. The question of how to get an emotional support animal letter is adequately answered in the upcoming sections.
If a person is unable to talk about the condition and if he or she could benefit with an emotional support animal then we suggest that a family member intervene and talk on the person's behalf. ESAs are especially found to be beneficial for the kids and people suffering from Down's Syndrome.
However, if you are planning to do it yourself, then the following are the key steps involved in it.
Set an Appointment with a Doctor
In most cases, if a person is suffering from a mental illness then chances are that he or she is already seeing a doctor or a mental health practitioner. If you are already having a doctor then schedule an appointment with him or her and explain why and how an ESA will be helpful for you.
If you do not have a doctor yet, do a thorough research of your nearby areas and try to find an LMHP for consultation. If you do not find a licensed mental health specialist nearby then consult a medical doctor to start the treatment process.
Explain your Symptoms
Once you have set the appointment, talk to your doctor about the symptoms that you are going through. Be honest about what you feel and experience if you want your doctor to diagnose your condition accurately.
If you are talking to your doctor about your mental health for the first time then talk about it naturally and tell them what you feel. In most cases, a medical doctor will recommend you to a mental health specialist since they will be knowing more about your condition.
Let Doctor make the Recommendations
Whether you have a history of various medical and mental treatments or going for it for the first time, let your doctor ‘speak'. Instead of just jumping to what you want and why you are here, discuss the matter with your doctor.
They may want to know if the previous medicines worked and change it, in case of existing medical history, or prescribe some medicines if you are new to it. In both cases, be patient and subtle.
Do Not Try to Push the Matter
Rather than coming up with the matter of getting an emotional support animal directly, be discreet and ask if they have seen cases where an ESA has been of great help. Believe us, there are many cases and your doctor will know of some of them.
Try not to push your doctor for the prescription otherwise, he or she will think that you are just trying to get a free pet. Nowadays, many pet owners try to get these ESA letters to avoid pet fees and avail free travel with their pets.
You do not want to give the same kind of impression also and the best way of doing it is to be as discreet as possible.
Put it Forward as a Treatment Option
Once you bring the matter forward, your doctor will be more open about talking about it. If you already have a cat or a dog, he or she may ask you about how you feel around it and how they help alleviate your condition.
Remember that no matter how badly you need an emotional support animal, your doctor will always know better than you. He or she may suggest to you the kind of animals that would be good for you or if it will be good for you in any case.
If your doctor believes that an ESA will not be a suitable option for you then it is better that you listen to your doctor. As for your beloved Coco or Kitty, you can still have them as your pet, isn't it?
Talk to a Licensed Mental Health Professional
In case you are working with a medical doctor only, it is better to get in touch with a licensed mental health professional to check you. A specialist will analyze your symptoms and condition and will determine if an emotional support animal will be a good option for you.
Research and get in touch with an LMHP in your area or contact an online source that could connect you with a licensed mental health professional. A prescription from a psychiatrist or psychotherapist will be of more value than a simple medical doctor.
Connect your Doctor and the LMHP
In many cases, the psychotherapist that you have contacted will want to talk to your doctor. Talk to your doctor and explain why you are involving a licensed mental health specialist into the matter. Let your doctor communicate your symptoms and condition with the psychologist and be honest about it.
Selecting your Emotional Support Animal
Once the procedure is complete and you get your ESA letter, it is time to (drum roll please) select the animal that you want as your ESA. There could be two ways, either you already have a pet that you are now making your emotional support animal or you need to get an animal now.
Instead of rushing into it, take your time and visit the pet market to see how you feel about different animals. For most, a dog or a cat is enough to calm their senses, if you are also one such person, it is time to make a home for it. There are various and different kinds of animals that people usually choose for the emotional therapy and support purposes.
However, before bringing your new family member home, make sure that you have got your landlord’s approval. Most of them do not have issues with a cat or a dog but you still need to inform them about it.
How Much Will the Letter Cost?
It depends. In some places, the prices could be increasingly high while in others it may be in a reasonable range. Cities having cost of living have higher letter prices and given that the authorities are tightening the rules regarding emotional support animals, the costs are going even higher.
Roughly, a letter could cost you anywhere between $100 to $200 price range. The letter will be valid for a year and you will need to renew it after that.
Mental Disabilities that Qualify for an ESA Letter
An emotional support animal is different from a service dog or service animal and this is why they do not need any special training to qualify to live and travel with you. However, you will need to qualify for one or more of the following psychological or emotional disabilities to get an ESA.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Down's Syndrome
- Panic Attacks
- Separation Anxiety and Depression
- Bipolar Disorder
- Several kinds of Phobias
Getting an ESA letter could be an easy and effortless process if you choose a legitimate and authentic service provider for it. Many companies that offer writing you an ESA letter online stress that you get your animal registered also, which is wrong. To enjoy the benefits, you just need to fill in the questionnaire, qualify and get an authentic ESA letter.
A genuine letter will be written on the letterhead of the mental health professional and will have his or her signature, license number and other details on it. Check everything completely before settling with a letter.