Pets can be your best friend, provide companionship as well as emotional support when you are struggling emotionally or psychologically. The sense of comfort and well-being that pets radiate also boost your moods and make your life happier.
For people who suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and social phobias, pets are of significant importance to their mental health. If you suffer from a mental health disorder that makes you uncomfortable in public places, for example, you tend to panic and may even fail to function well. In such times, having the company of your close friend will help you feel safe and calm, relieving you from anxiety. If you have a pet, snuggling it close or just the sheer presence of it can help you feel better.
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Fortunately, Emotional Support Animals (ESA) exist to make you calm and restore normalcy in your life and aid your recovery as they offer the support and companionship that you need.
If you are prone to panic attacks and anxiety, an Emotional Support Animal will help you in the following ways:
- Calm you down.
- Lower your stress levels and blood pressure.
- Protect you from experiencing emotional and psychological trauma.
While pets can be a reliable company and source of support when you are distressed, you cannot take them everywhere with you. This is because most places including restaurants and shopping stores do not allow pets in their establishment, and you cannot board a plane with it when traveling.
What’s more, some landlords do not allow pets in their properties. For people who rely on their pets to feel safe and calm, and ease the symptoms of mental health disorders, these restrictions greatly affect their lifestyle. This is because they cannot carry out everyday routines without their pets. Luckily, you can bypass restrictive regulations and laws with the help of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter.
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It is a recommendation letter issued by a licensed healthcare professional showing that your pet or Emotional Support Animal is necessary for your mental health. This means you need to be with your Emotional Support Animal or pet at all times to help you ease the symptoms of your mental condition.
With an ESA letter, you and your Emotional Support Animal can:
- Access places where pets are not allowed.
- Live on properties where pets are not allowed.
- Board planes where pets are not allowed.
Whether you plan on going for a vacation, or you want to move houses, and you cannot imagine staying away from your pet, you can apply for an ESA letter so you can spend quality time without worrying about the authorities.
Since we live in a fast-moving era, it is understandable that no one likes waiting in lines or going through long and tedious procedures to acquire an ESA letter. This helpful guide shows you simple steps to conveniently get an ESA letter. Below are the 13 hassle-free tips to help you get an approval for an ESA letter in no time.
- Evaluate your symptoms to establish whether or not you need an ESA.
- Find a licensed and qualified mental health professional.
- Make an appointment with your mental healthcare professional.
- Explain to your therapist in detail, your need for an Emotional Support Animal.
- Apply for an Emotional Support Animal Letter.
- Fill the form provided by your doctor.
- Conditions that make you eligible for an ESA letter
- Wait for the approval letter.
- Know how to spot a fake ESA letter.
- Understand the laws and regulations relating to ESA Letters.
- Turn your pet into an Emotional Support Animal.
- You can pick a new animal as your ESA.
- Enjoy a more quality life with your pet!
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1. Evaluate Your Symptoms to Establish Whether or Not You Need an ESA
The first step to solving any problem is identifying it and acknowledging its existence. This also applies to mental and emotional health. You need to evaluate your symptoms by identifying the signs of mental health problems so you can focus on treatment and getting the necessary support to improve your wellbeing.
You can decide to perform a self-evaluation or ask your loved ones such as a family member or a close friend to do it for you. For the best results and to make evaluation easy for you, consider your past life experiences, medical history as well as your phobias. To evaluate your symptoms, answer the following questions.
- Do you feel nervous when in public places and therefore avoid going to them?
- Does being in public alone scare you?
- Do you worry excessively?
- Are you having unusually frequent nightmares?
- Does being reminded of past events make you feel triggered?
- Do you feel numb or emotionally detached?
- Does your mental or emotional issues negatively affect your daily life?
- Are your relationships affected?
- Do you feel lonely most of the time?
- Do you experience severe mood swings regularly?
- Have you lost interest in activities that previously brought you joy?
- Are you scared of traveling alone?
- Has your sleeping cycle or routine being affected, for example sleeping more or less than usual?
- Do you get easily distracted?
If your answer to most of the above questions is a solid YES, you could be struggling with a mental health condition and you need an emotional support animal. An ESA will ease some of your symptoms by offering you company, calming you down, and helping you live a healthy and happy life. As such, you should not only get yourself an ESA as soon as possible but also seek a therapist for your wellbeing.
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2. Find a Licensed Mental Health Professional
After your evaluation and recognizing that you need help, you should find a licensed mental health professional to start you off on your journey to recovery. A qualified and experienced therapist will guide you towards reclaiming your mental health. When it comes to mental health, you need to find the best therapist. You can use the following approaches to help you choose the best therapist.
- Make use of the internet and search online for the best therapist near you
- Ask for recommendations from your family and friends on the best therapist
- Check out reviews and customer testimonials for various therapists so you know what to expect
- Go through the websites of various therapists to assess their profiles
Choose a therapist with the right qualifications and has experience in handling cases such as yours. Since you will be divulging personal information, you want a therapist, you are most comfortable with who is professional and still has empathy.
3. Make an Appointment With Your Mental Health Professional
After settling on a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist, you should schedule an appointment immediately to begin your recovery process early. This way, you can resume your daily activities, improve the quality of your life, and become a positive contributor to society.
It is important that you choose a therapist who is readily available for the sake of convenience. You can consult with your therapist in two ways; online and face-to-face.
Remember, online consultation is the best if you don’t feel comfortable explaining your mental issues to a doctor in person. It is also highly convenient. You only need to conduct an online search of a licensed healthcare professional who can write you an ESA recommendation letter and book an appointment on their website’s appointment page.
If you find a certified therapist or doctor near you, you can go to their office for a face-to-face consultation. This also helps you build a personal relationship with your doctor for an in-depth assessment. During your consultation, your psychologist or mental health professional will determine whether an Emotional Support Animal is good for your mental health or not. They will also assess how much your condition affects how you function in public and recommend ways to go around it.
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4. Explain to Your Therapist in Detail Your Need for an Emotional Support Animal
When you visit your therapist, you may be required to divulge personal information concerning your mental health issues. It is important that you describe in detail your mental situation, provide all the necessary information, and explain why you need an ESA letter so your doctor can help you in the best way.
You don’t have to be uneasy about the process as your doctor is trained to uphold confidentiality and won’t disclose any of the details to anyone else. What’s more, the information you provide will come in handy when planning the best treatment approach for your quick recovery.
Based on the information you provide, your therapist will evaluate your mental situation and recommend that you get an Emotional Support Animal. Some of the important details to disclose include:
Inform your therapist about any disability you have that disrupts your normal life. Be open with your therapist or doctor on how you think having an ESA will help you cope with your situation. The better you explain whatever mental condition you may be struggling with, the higher your chances of being recommended an Emotional Support Animal.
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Share About Your Lifestyle
Go into depth about your lifestyle and your daily routines for a full analysis. You may also want to include details such as whether or not you take drugs or indulgences like smoking. No one will judge you for how you live, it is solely for the purpose of helping you recover.
Discuss your Mood Swings
Your mood goes a long way in diagnosing mental health. As such, you should discuss with your doctor or therapist every little change in your attitude or mood.
No Detail Is Too Small
Whatever changes in routine, feelings, or moods you may experience, you should inform your doctor about them. No detail is too small when it comes to dealing with mental health. Ensure that you disclose every detail that points to a mental health condition no matter how trivial you may think it is.
Reveal Your Fear of Public Places
Don’t forget to inform your therapist about how being in public or crowded places makes you feel. This is because most people either feel uncomfortable or alone when in public places which may even lead to anxiety or panic attacks. After revealing all the necessary information, your therapist will put you under observation and also take you through a few tests. This helps your doctor to make an informed decision based on the final results.
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5. Apply for an Emotional Support Letter
After a successful consultation with your therapist when it has been established that you can get an Emotional Support Animal, it is time to acquire an ESA letter. This will help you live and travel with your new companion even in places where pets or animals are restricted. You can apply for an ESA letter in two ways;
Ask Your Personal Therapist
If your personal therapist knows that you need an Emotional Support Animal, they will write you a recommendation letter. Your therapist only has to be licensed to write you a recommendation letter.
This can be a clinical social worker, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and even your doctor. What’s more, you will get all the important information about your ESA from your therapist.
From an Online Therapist
If you prefer an online therapist, you need to conduct your research, do your due diligence and identify a legit clinic website to apply for the letter. Go through potential websites to ensure the doctor or clinic is licensed to write you an ESA letter in your location before settling on one. With numerous scammers out to take advantage of desperate patients, ensure that the website you intend to apply for an ESA letter is a reliable source.
Also, read reviews from past clients to give you a sneak-peek of what to expect. This way, you minimize your chances of being scammed by unscrupulous online individuals who may know nothing about mental health. While not every online clinic or doctor is a fraud, be wary of those that promise unrealistic offers such as “get your ESA letter free of charge” or “get an ESA letter for cheap”.
You may end up with a fake ESA letter that will not only have wasted your time and resources but also put you at risk of running into problems with the law. Most people who land in the hands of these scammers usually don’t know they have a fake ESA letter until they present it when trying to travel or access properties that don’t allow pets. With a rise in cases of fake ESA letters, it pays to be vigilant especially when seeking it from an online source.
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6. Fill the Form Provided by Your Doctor
After you find the perfect website or licensed healthcare professional who can get you an ESA letter, proceed to fill the form you will be provided in order to get the letter. Normally, you will be required to input the following details.
- Your name
- Your preferred ESA
- Services you seek to get from an ESA
When you are done filling the form, you will also be required to fill a questionnaire with regard to your mental health. Since the questionnaire helps your doctor or therapist know the severity of your mental health condition, ensure you provide accurate information. Filling the form with false or inaccurate information will only jeopardize your chances of your application being approved.
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7. Conditions That Make You Eligible for an ESA Letter
Not everyone qualifies for an ESA letter. Some people just want to spend more time with their pets and gain access to restricted areas even when they have no mental health condition. For this reason, after you have filled the form, you have to speak to your licensed healthcare professional about why you need an ESA letter.
The nurse or doctor will ask you some questions to confirm that you genuinely need an ESA letter. This also ensures that your claims do not contradict your medical history and that you have any of the conditions that qualify you for an ESA. Some of the conditions that make you eligible for an ESA include.
- Bi-Polar Disorders
- Body-Dysmorphic Disorder
- Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
- Panic Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
During your chat with the doctor or nurse, explain clearly why you think having an ESA all the time will help you. Go into details about previous experiences that affected your mental health or triggered any of the mental health problems, and how an ESA will make your life better. When licensed healthcare professionals understand your reason for wanting an ESA, they won’t hesitate to give you an ESA letter.
8. Wait for the Approval Letter
When you are done with the entire process, you need to be patient for it to be approved and your ESA letter to be sent to you. Although getting an approval letter takes a short time, it may be a few days before it reaches you. You will first receive a downloadable copy by Email within 2 hours and the hardcopy comes after. Usually, the ESA letter reaches you within 3 days with some clinics sending them the next day after approval.
Since an ESA letter is usually valid for one year from the date of issuance, you will need to renew it if you want to continue enjoying the full benefits of an Emotional Support Animal. Note that not everyone qualifies for an ESA and your application may not be approved. This could be because your doctor or therapist doesn’t see the need for you to have one. If you think otherwise, you should talk to your therapist again instead of giving up. In case you qualify for one but your letter doesn’t arrive in 5 days, get in touch with your issuer for the problem to be resolved.
9. Know How to Spot a Fake ESA Letter
As more people get to know the benefits of Emotional Support Animals, the demand for ESA letters has increased. This has led to an increase in the presentation of fake ESA letters from fraudulent websites and healthcare professionals.
The best way to avoid the unpleasant consequences and inconveniences that come with having a fake ESA Letter is knowing how it looks like. This way, you can easily differentiate between an authentic recommendation letter and a fake one. To help you differentiate between a fake and an authentic letter, below are the contents of a legit ESA letter.
- An official letterhead
- The name of the licensed mental health professional
- The name and phone number of the practice
- Type of medical license, license number, and date of issue of the license
- The state of the jurisdiction of the mental health professional
- The ESA’s details
- Date of issue of the ESA letter
- A confirmation that you are being treated for a recognized disability and that an ESA is part of your treatment.
Many people have fallen for the fake advertisements online that promise to give you an ESA letter for free or cheap. This ends up with your ESA letter being rejected when you want to travel or live with your pet and puts you into legal problems as well as jeopardizing your recovery. To avoid this, do your research first before choosing a clinic, website, or doctor to get an ESA letter from.
To protect yourself from being issued with a fake letter, look out for the following details when visiting a website that claims to provide ESA letters.
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Look out for the license of whoever is writing your ESA letter and check if it is both legitimate as well as up to date. Ensure that the professional issuing your letter has the jurisdiction to write the letter in your state.
As stated earlier, your letter should have the necessary credentials. These include an official letterhead, type of Emotional Support Animal, name of the animal and the certificate ID number of the ESA to be registered. If the above details are missing, the letter is fake.
To ensure the website is safe, check their payment page. The payment page should contain an “Http” address with a padlock. The address should also contain the word “secure” and the “Http” should be green in color to show that the site is safe for an online transaction. If it does not meet the three conditions, leave the site as it is unsafe and could be fraudulent. Only go for a safe, reliable, and legitimate site when seeking an ESA Letter to avoid being scammed.
10. Understand the Laws and Regulations Relating to ESA Letters
You may be excited to travel with your Emotional Support Animal once you get an approved ESA letter. However, before you start taking your new companion everywhere it previously couldn’t access, learn, and understand the laws regarding the letter.
This way, you will understand the dos and don’ts in different situations, as well as easily engage the concerned authorities every time you need to present your ESA letter. It also helps you stand up for your rights and those of your ESA whenever you feel they are violated. Below are some of the circumstances under which the laws regarding ESA letters come into play.
When Boarding a Plane
If your ESA is good-mannered around strangers, well-trained, doesn’t litter or bite, and obeys orders, you don’t have to worry about being bothered during your flight. What’s more, the law allows you to be provided with reasonable accommodation to facilitate traveling with your pet if your ESA is big in size. This also applies when there is someone on the plane who is allergic to your companion.
During Your Stay in an Apartment
The law requires your ESA to have adequate accommodation in the apartment or property you mean to keep it. This means that with an ESA letter, your landlord is obligated to accommodate your Emotional Support Animal. You only need to ensure that it is well-behaved and can respond to basic instructions.
When Visiting a Cinema or Hospital
Since Emotional Support Animals are not service animals that are trained to perform certain tasks for their owners, they are not allowed in cinemas and hospitals.
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11. Turn Your Pet Into an ESA
The good thing about getting an ESA is that you don’t have to get a new animal if you already have a pet that provides the support and companionship that you need. Inform your therapist about it. So it can be turned into an Emotional Support Animal through writing you a recommendation letter.
This makes it easier for you as your pet is already part of your family if you have had it for more than a month. It might prove difficult to live without it and getting another animal since you already have a connection. If you have a mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, you may find it hard to socialize.
Most times, you will turn to your pet for comfort and companionship. As such, you need to simply get an ESA letter to make it easier for you to have your pet all the time instead of adopting a new animal. You can seek guidance from your doctor or therapist on how to handle your pet so that you can enjoy the ultimate benefits when it comes to helping you in your recovery journey.
12. You Can Pick a New Animal as Your ESA
If you don’t already have a pet to turn into an ESA, you can always find a new companion and begin bonding with it. Your consultant can point you towards where you can get an Emotional Support Animal of your choice so you can begin your journey towards recovery.
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Common Emotional Support Animals
Below are the most popular animals that make great ESAs:
Cats make excellent ESAs as they are intelligent, playful, and quite cuddly. They also don’t require you to shower them with lots of attention as they are sometimes considered distant. In fact, reports show that the simple act of watching your cat play can greatly boost your happiness and productivity.
Dogs are the most demanded animals when it comes to pets and Emotional Support Animals. They are loyal and provide great company to their owners. Since dogs are capable of sensing and recording sensitive information from you, they can use the information to help you feel better when you are in distress. They also make excellent service animals too and are easily trained!
Although miniature horses are loyal and playful, they also crave attention and require lots of care. With its long lifespan, a horse can provide you with support and companionship for up to 25 years or more.
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Hamsters are cute, furry, and very affordable to keep as they only need very little space for accommodation. The fact that they are tiny means you can carry them everywhere.
If you fancy a bird as your Emotional Support Animal, the best choice would be a talking parrot. Not only can talking parrots mimic how you talk, but they are also intelligent and can keep you highly entertained and happy.
Just like hamsters, rabbits only require a small space in your home for accommodation and are not high-maintenance. Their quiet and loving nature makes them great ESAs for when you need to calm down. Since rabbits are also playful, they will keep you active and entertained, improving your mood in the process.
13. Enjoy a More Quality Life With Your Pet!
Once you go through all the steps and get an ESA letter, nothing can stop you from living your best life with your Emotional Support Animal. You can attend parties, travel, go for walks and go about your daily routine with your companion without worrying about your pet being barred. The more you spend time with your ESA, the better your mental health will get. With an Emotional Support Animal, you can handle uncomfortable situations better, be assured of a loyal companion, and live a healthier happier life!
Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal Letter
Possessing an ESA letter gives you protection under the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act. It also comes with a number of perks that will make your life easier, healthier and more fulfilling.
a. You Can Travel Freely With Your ESA
If you get anxiety and panic attacks when flying alone, an ESA letter is a lifesaver. You can freely board a plane with your Emotional Support Animal to help calm your fears and make traveling less lonely and scary. As long as your pet doesn’t disrupt anything and behaves well, you will enjoy traveling without being bothered by your mental health condition.
b. It Allows You to Live With Your ESA in Restricted Properties
In properties with stringent no-pet policies, an ESA letter means your landlord cannot bar you from living with your Emotional Support Animal. What’s more, your landlord has the responsibility to ensure that your ESA has a place to stay according to the law.
c. It Allows You to Shop With Your ESA
Supermarkets have a lot of traffic and if you suffer from social anxiety, it can be challenging going shopping. It doesn’t help that they don’t allow pets into the establishment. Luckily, an ESA letter enables you to go shopping with your companion so you don’t have to deal with the symptoms that cope with anxiety in a public place. However, the shop owner has to provide his/her approval.
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d. Loneliness Becomes a Thing of the Past
If you tend to distance yourself because of a mental health disorder and constantly suffer the feelings of loneliness, an Emotional Support Animal will provide you with companionship. If you have an ESA letter, you will never be alone. As you can take it to most of the restricted places without being obstructed by the law.
e. It Facilitates Your Treatment
Normally, you will be recommended an ESA as part of your treatment plan if you suffer from mental health disorders. This is because they help in relieving symptoms of mental health issues by providing support, companionship, comfort, and improving your mood.
An ESA can even help you sleep better and motivate you to live a more active, productive, and healthy life. Since an ESA letter allows you more time with your pet, your treatment becomes more efficient, leading to a quick recovery.
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Emotional Support Animals give you a sense of protection and comfort if you suffer from mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, mood disorder, PTSD, and even phobias. With a legal ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional, you can travel or live with your ESA, even in places where pets are not allowed. Consider the above hassle-free steps and acquire an ESA letter so you can fully enjoy the positive impact of your pet on your mental health.
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