7 thoughts on “Therapists should not write Emotional Support Animal letters

  1. My dog helps me intergrate back into society. Why would you want to make those who need it go without? If your are licensed to treat someone surely you have the capacity to write the letter?

    • Not sure where in the world you got the idea that I “want to make those who need it go without.” I want to make those who *don’t* need it go without. The current system is widely abused by clients who don’t have an actual need, and therapists happy to profit off of them. The process needs to be dramatically changed, with a much higher bar to entry — one that allows in those with actual need, who have animals that are adequately trained to the task.

  2. In addition, to back up my previous post, therapist’s cannot write prescriptions – (medication scripts) and thus, an ESA letter is a ‘prescription’ written by a psychiatrist.

  3. Unlike a psychiatrist, a therapist cannot initiate documentation for SS Disability, therefore it is up to the psychiatrist to write an ESA letter, if deemed necessary. I am dx’ed, from my psychiatrist with severe PTSD, Anxiety and Agoraphobia. We do have a long patient/doctor relationship (history). I was unfamiliar with the term “ESA” until my psychiatrist explained it and thus writing an ESA letter.

  4. This is actually well thought out. I have done this on occasion without thinking past my clients’ needs/wishes. The idea of assessing disability is the real ethical issue here, and I like that you brought that up because I need to think about that with other issues. Thanks

  5. I think it is critical that there be some standard associated with ESA letter issuance in regard to not only assessing the client, but also assessing the animal’s capacity to be of use in public situations of particular sorts. At present, such letters are essentially a therapist aiding and abetting a pet owner in shoehorning their pet into situations in which pets are generally prohibited. They don’t actually need their pet for support, but they want the convenience of being able to take it anywhere so they don’t have to make arrangements for its care (or to leave it at home alone where its behavior can be a problem for the owner, especially if it is a dog). An ESA may be necessary on an airplane if the client has extreme anxiety or is phobic about air travel, but not anyone or everyone needs that comfort (or, they could get the same relief via other means that are less disruptive than a pet might be).

    Mainly, most pet owners are trying to get into rental units which disallow pets or to get into them without paying the deposit or overcoming other bureaucratic hurdles for allowing pets. Therapists who endorse the use of an ESA as part of a client’s treatment need to be sure they aren’t a part of circumventing systems and are actually looking after a client’s needs. For that to be so, there have to be strict criteria and limits to what an ESA is allowed to do and there has to be evidence that a client has exhausted all other options for coping before being allowed an ESA. My best guess is that clients who need to make an effort to deal with their issues first won’t be back for a second appointment in 98% of cases.

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