Any pet owner understands the feeling of warmth when a dog greets them at the end of a hard day. For some, however, that feeling is more than “pet love”—it’s part of a healing process due to a mental or emotional disorder, in which case the pet could be defined as an emotional support animal (ESA). To qualify for an ESA, you must have documentation also known as an ESA letter from a licensed medical health professional. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) can determine your need for an ESA and issue the required ESA letter.
If you are ready to connect online with a LMFT or other licensed health professional for an ESA letter, click on the link below to get started.
How Emotional Support Animals Can Help
An ESA provides therapeutic relief from traumatic emotions and feelings of distress. An ESA is a source of joy and comfort for a person who is experiencing a mental or emotional disorder. ESAs can provide relief for many mental health disorders. You can find a few of the disorders that qualify for an ESA below:
What Makes a Regular Pet an ESA?
Any domesticated pet can be an ESA (cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, hamsters, mini pigs, rats, fish, etc.). And unlike service dogs, they don’t require any specialized task-related training. However, for the safety of the owner and others, an ESA does need to be well behaved and manageable in a public setting, with no displays of violence or disruptive behaviors.
However, a pet is not an ESA until a mental health professional writes an ESA letter recommending that their client would benefit from having an emotional support animal. A legitimate ESA letter allows the ESA to accompany their owners into areas where animals aren’t typically allowed.
The Purpose of an ESA Letter
An ESA letter is a written verification that your animal is needed for treatment purposes and emotional support. An ESA letter is required when seeking housing or booking a flight. It provides proof to landlords or airline employees that they have to allow and accommodate your ESA according to law.
The ESA letter also ensures that information regarding your licensed mental healthcare professional (LMFT’s name, license number, and contact information) is available should authorities need further verification. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are one of the medical professionals licensed to issue ESA letters for their clients.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) are mental health professionals that are specialized in psychotherapy within family systems. They can diagnose and treat mental health concerns within a marriage, couples, and family dynamic.
Obtaining LMFT credentials requires many years of education and experience. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), LMFT’s, in general, have an average of 13 years of clinical experience in marriage and family therapy. All LMFTs have graduate training—a Master’s or Doctoral degree—in marriage and family therapy. They must also have at least two years of clinical experience before practicing on their own.
According to the AAMFT, these are the necessary years required for each LMFT degree: master’s degree (2-3 years), doctoral program (3-5 years), or postgraduate clinical training programs (3-4 years).
How Can a LMFT Issue ESA Letters?
LMFTs are grouped as mental health workers, which include psychiatry, psychology, social work, and psychiatric nursing. LMFTs, however, differ from those professions because it is concerned with the well-being of the entire family unit, and not only individuals within the family.
LMFTs utilize a family-centered approach, using cohesive and unit-focused solutions for their clients. An LMFT also takes into account the socio-economic factors both within and outside the family unit and focuses on fostering a sense of nurturing and bonding within the family system.
For LMFTs, an ESA letter usually includes the family dynamic as it pertains to one individual within the family. And the ESA helps create healing and ties of affection throughout the entire family unit.
In the eyes of an LMFT, the ESA creates a therapeutic environment not just for one person—but for the entire family.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
ESA Letter: What the Law Says
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a physician, registered nurse, psychologist, a social worker, or another type of licensed health professionals can write an ESA letter. The ESA letter must state that an animal offers emotional support, as a treatment for one or more symptoms of a disability or disorder. Because of an LMFT’s educational background and licensing, they fit the requirement of a mental health professional and can write a valid ESA letter.
In an LMFT treatment setting, an ESA can help break down family divides and unite a group. Allowing ESA as a family treatment not only benefits one individual but allows the entire family to heal.
Get the Love and Support you deserve!