How to Ask a Doctor for an Emotional Support Animal

The ever-changing world of mental disorders, psychological imbalances, and general medical discoveries can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. You might hear that getting an emotional support animal (ESA) can help you cope with anxiety or other mental health disorders, but you may not be sure how to go about getting one or if you qualify. 

To make things more confusing, a quick Google search about ESAs will pull up lots of “cheap,” pushy websites offering ESA letters for airlines (which are not valid since ESAs don’t have public access rights), lifelong licenses, and so on. Many of these sites are actually scams that are selling you a worthless piece of paper for an inflated price. 

To get a legitimate ESA Letter, you must have a licensed mental health practitioner, like many primary doctors, involved in the process. Our service makes sure that your ESA Letter is fully legal and done properly.

US Service Animals can get you started on the right path immediately and make sure to support you through the process. Plus, you can do everything from the comfort of your home.

If you’d like to speak with your doctor in person about getting an ESA before you reach out to us to start the process, we’ve collected everything you need to know about the process below.

Doctors and Mental Health: How to Start the Conversation

Bringing up the discussion about mental health may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but being open about emotions and thoughts can help your doctor identify what is irking you. Remember, your mental health is an important component of your overall health, and it’s just as important to discuss this with your doctor as any other health issue.

Can a Doctor Write an ESA Letter?

In most cases, a doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner can write an ESA letter as long as they are also a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP); an LMHP is someone who is licensed to diagnose or treat mental conditions with specific medicines, recreational therapies, or ESA and service animals. 

If you’re already regularly visiting a doctor and therapist about your mental health, it can make the process of getting prescribed an ESA quicker. However, if this is your first time bringing up your mental health issues to your doctor, don’t be discouraged; there’s no better time than the present to start seeking the support you deserve. 

Why Do I Need an ESA Letter?

An ESA is only considered legally valid if you are diagnosed with a mental health disorder and if you have been prescribed an ESA through a valid ESA letter. With both these components, your animal cannot enjoy the rights of an ESA, including the right to:

  • Live in almost any housing with no-pet policies, including most college dorms
  • Avoid breed, weight, or size restrictions
  • Avoid pet rent, pet fees, or pet deposits

These rights prompt some people to seek ESA letters when they don’t qualify, which is why you need to be honest about your mental health when discussing getting an ESA with your doctor.

Asking Your Doctor for an ESA: A Step-By-Step Guide

For those who wish to ask their doctor about LMHPs available nearby and about emotional support animals, here’s a rough how-to guide:

1. Schedule an Appointment

If you have a doctor or clinic nearby that you prefer, schedule your appointment there. If you’re not connected to any health provider near you, take some time to research a licensed medical health professional nearby.

2. Discuss Your Mental Health Symptoms

If this is a regular check-up, update them on the state of your mental health. Be honest about how well or ill you have been recently. If you have never brought up mental health before with your doctor, try to approach the subject naturally and just be frank: you feel something is off.

If it’s not time for your check-up, don’t hesitate to make an appointment solely for this. Your mental health is a valid reason to visit your doctor.

3. Allow the Doctor to Make Treatment Recommendations

Many times, if you have a record of medical and therapeutic treatments, your doctor may ask whether you think these are helping. They may want to tweak a medicine, try a new one, suggest less regular or more regular therapy appointments, etc. Allowing them to make recommendations before jumping to your own idea will help the doctor see you’re trying to make things better rather than trying to obtain an ESA letter for illegitimate reasons.

4. Ask If They’ve Seen ESAs Work as a Treatment Option

This can be done simply. “I’ve heard some good things about animals as a method of treatment; do you recommend this/think it is a viable option?” Try not to be pushy about getting an ESA. Doctors are becoming more wary about the general increase in desire for ESA letters, so try to appear open-minded.

5. Discuss an ESA as a Potential Treatment Option

Your doctor will discuss with you his or her opinions and/or recommendations connected to emotional support animals. They may ask if you generally feel better around your dog or cat, and they might give an example of why or why not this seems like a good idea.

If you’re interested in getting an ESA letter because you’ve already noticed the benefits of having your own animal around regularly, this can become a comfortable and easy transition. Often, doctors and LMHPs will ask why you think having an animal specifically will help your condition.

If you have experience with your dog, cat, bird, bunny, gerbil, etc., and you can list relevant examples of how their presence and intuitive natures have helped you through rough days or all the time, most doctors and LMHPs will recognize that they are, in fact, helping you and you can qualify for an ESA letter more easily.

6. Get Recommendations for an LMHP

If you’re speaking with a doctor who is not a licensed mental health professional, you might want to ask for LMHPs in the area (such as a therapist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, etc) who could help with analyzing your mental health and writing you an ESA letter (if that’s the right option and if your doctor agrees).

If you get a recommendation, contact the licensed mental health professional you have decided on to schedule an appointment. Convey your history of emotional and mental health honestly and bring up concerns both you and your doctor may have listed. Many LMHPs will want to discuss options with your doctor or be in contact for easy record access and so on. This is something you need to be okay with.

7. Get the ESA Prescription Letter

The length of time you need to wait for this depends on your doctor’s policies and your start laws; some practices move faster than others. For instance, if you go through US Service Animals, you may receive your letter in as little as 24 hours.

Remember, if you’re pushy about wanting an ESA immediately, many doctors and LMHPs will assume you’re trying to use the letter as an excuse to live with your pet. If you’re clear about why you think an emotional support animal will benefit your daily mental and emotional health, and you’re honest about needing the letter for no other reason, you can likely obtain their written/typed letter quickly.

Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay for your ESA letter. The price of an ESA letter will vary pretty widely. In some areas, it is more costly than others (in larger cities with a higher cost of living average). In other places, they are making increasingly strict ESA regulations, so the letter might cost more. Generally, you can expect it to be in the $100-$200 range, and these are good for a year.

8. Choose Your Emotional Support Animal

At this point, you need to either already have the animal that benefits you or need to select one that meets your needs that you can support. If you find your nerves are only calmed by a dog or a cat, you can purchase or adopt one of these loveable fuzzy animals and begin making your home its home as well. Make sure your landlord has okayed this process and has made any reasonable accommodations they need to on their part. Whatever animal you choose, ensure it is comfortable and well-loved in your environment.

Why Asking for an ESA Can Be Tricky

Why is obtaining an ESA such a seemingly difficult task these days? A growing number of people have tried jumping through hoops, avoiding actual mental health consultations and buying scam online ESA letter copies so they can easily live with their animals.

Bringing up the ESA topic with a doctor or LMHP can also be tricky because they’re aware of the growing demand for these letters, and they’re trying to respect their career and practice by making sure only those who really need it will be able to get an ESA. That’s why the process can take a while to go through and there needs to be proof of mental or emotional benefits from an ESA.

US Service Animals focuses on emotional support animals, so they’re familiar with how needed they can be and will listen to your request with empathy and patience.

How to Bring Up ESAs to Your Doctor

The first time bringing up an ESA with your doctor shouldn’t be awkward. It might be a little uncomfortable if you’re not sure you actually need one, and it might be uncomfortable if you’ve never even discussed mental/emotional health in depth with him or her.

If this is the first time bringing up the topic of emotional health in connection to animals, don’t come at it completely out of the blue. Allow your health professional to bring up questions about your general welfare. Usually, they will ask specifically about your mental and emotional state, which is a great time to bring up any concerns you may have.

If you have a track record of trying to ease your emotional and mindful woes and frustrations, broaching the subject of obtaining an ESA should be painless and almost expected. It shouldn’t feel awkward or like you’re trying to sneak anything past the doctor of your choice.

What to Do If Your Doctor Won’t Write You an ESA Letter

If you go through the entire process and the health professional you’re speaking with says something along the lines of, “While you have emotional/mental health needs, I feel they are met sufficiently through medicine/counseling/therapy/etc. and have therefore decided to hold off on writing an ESA letter…”, it can be incredibly discouraging – but don’t give up.

If your doctor has denied prescribing you an ESA, but you still feel this is the best course of treatment for you, you can seek out a second opinion. Remember, not all doctors are experts in mental health, and you benefit more from speaking to someone like a licensed psychiatrist instead.

Just like with any medical issue, you don’t have to rely on just one doctor’s opinion. It’s important to advocate for yourself until you receive the care you deserve, including an ESA letter if an emotional support animal would benefit you.

Ask Your Doctor About Getting an ESA Letter

This can be a scary and stressful process, but it can also be an incredibly worthwhile one. Most doctors want nothing more than to see you happy, healthy, and thriving, and they should be willing to discuss if an ESA will help you achieve that.

Remember, even if your doctor says no, that’s not the end of the road. You can reach out to another licensed mental health practitioner or contact us today to start the process. An ESA can be a life-changing treatment option, and you deserve to find out if it’s the right one for you.