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ESA Doctor Note: Things To Know About Emotional Support Animal 2023

Lisandra Fields

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

esa doctor note

Emotional support animals (otherwise known as comfort animals or assistance animals) are trusted pets that offer comfort to individuals with an emotional or mental disability. An ESA owner is legally protected[1] under state and federal laws. These animals enjoy a variety of privileges that are uncommon to other animals. 

Emotional support animals can live with their owners even in cases where the ‘No pets’ policy is in full effect. They are also not liable to animal deposits. What’s more, ESAs are allowed on airplanes and exempted from pet fees. 

To register your pet as an ESA, there are a couple of things you need to do first. This post will clarify a few points, including the essence of a doctor’s note for an emotional support animal, why you need it in your registration process, how to qualify for it, and so on. 

Why Do I Need To Get A Doctor’s Note?

Most people wonder how to get a doctor’s note for an emotional support animal from their medical practitioner or medical clinic. When you get a doctor’s note for an emotional support animal, it puts you a step closer to getting the companionship of trusted assistance animals in your life to help you with your condition. 

It’s worth exploring with your physician if you really need an ESA. To qualify for a doctor’s note, your mental illness[2]  should be severe enough to limit major life activities such as the ability to learn, work, or sleep. 

On the same note, keep in mind that a doctor also has the authority to issue a legal ESA letter. Keep in mind that while physicians issue a good majority of ESA letters, most of these letters are not from them. 

Doctors are either unwilling or reluctant to give out ESA letters since they’re not fully aware of the patient’s mental health. If you can’t prove for sure that emotional support animals would help with your mental health symptoms, you’re better off not asking for a doctor’s note right off the bat. 

Doctor’s notes help to back up your need for an ESA. You can only get a doctor’s note if you have mild/severe panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, and depression. Your doctor will see it fit to give you the note once the prescription medications you’ve been taking all along have had adverse side effects. 

The note will also prove helpful in cases where you need to have an ESA, but your landlord/landlady won’t allow any cats on their premises. The note will exempt you from their no-cat rule[3]  and prove to them that you have a valid reason for keeping a cat. At this point, the landowner will have no choice but to provide you with reasonable accommodation. The fair housing act[4] instructs them to do this. 

Keep in mind that landlords are not under any jurisdiction to ask you about your medical history or medical condition. Exercise your right to confidentiality, especially when sensitive details about your mental health are involved. 

How To Get A Doctor’s Note For Emotional Support Animal?

It’s only a qualified physician that can offer you a valid recommendation for an ESA. If you’re seeing someone who can help you cope with your mental illness, that’s great! Getting a note from them won’t be as tricky since they’re fully aware of your predicament. 

All you need to do to get a doctor’s note from your therapist is just ask. If your physician is a licensed mental health professional[5]  such as a licensed counselor, nurse, psychiatrist, or psychologist, they’re in the best position to write you an ESA letter. Note that they’ll only do this if they’re confident that you’re capable of owning and taking care of an ESA. 

Some patients find it rather difficult to ask their physician for an official recommendation in the form of a note. Hence, some back away from the topic for fear of rejection or judgment. While it’s a fact that your request for a note might be turned down, it won’t hurt to give some reasonable explanations why you think you qualify for an ESA. 

A legitimate ESA letter should have the following requirements: 

  • An official recommendation for an emotional support animal.
  • A detailed opinion about whether or not you meet the required standard of having an emotional or mental health disability. 
  • The healthcare professional’s license number and signature. 
  • A date along with the physician’s contact information. 

How To Qualify For An ESA Letter?

You can easily qualify for a sample doctor letter for emotional support animals using these three simple steps: 

Undergo A Thorough Screening Test

Your therapist will scan you for a mental health disability in the form of ADHD[6] , bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, severe depression, and so on. If you have any of these, you’re automatically eligible for an emotional support animal. It’s well understood that cats, service dogs, and other support animals offer the best therapeutic benefit to owners in the form of companionship and comfort. 

Contact A Qualified Therapist

Seek out a licensed therapist who can clearly assess your mental issues. Therapists often have unique areas of expertise, such as eating disorders or depression. If you’re familiar with your mental issues, look for licensed mental health professionals who deal in that particular field. 

Once you find one who can offer their expert input, ensure they hold a valid license[7]  and they’re in good standing with your state’s regulatory board. If they do, open up to them about your mental issues and allow them to assess their findings. 

Get Issued With An ESA Letter

Upon completion of your consultation, you may either be approved or rejected for an ESA. If you make the cut, you’ll receive a typed/handwritten legitimate ESA letter from your therapist almost immediately. From there, you can use the valid ESA letter to prove that you need your pets in areas where pets are not allowed. 

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How Can I Connect With My Mental Health Professional?

You have plenty of options when it comes to connecting with a mental health professional. You can:

  • Ask your health insurance firm for a complete list of health providers. Most insurance companies keep an online record[8]  of the providers they cover. 
  • Check the internet or look up phone book listings under categories like social service organizations, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, or community service numbers. 
  • Scavenge the internet for associations with directories of mental health practitioners. This includes the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, or the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Contact a national or local mental health organization like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) via the internet or by phone. 
  • Find out whether your firm’s EAP (employee assistance program) or student health center provides mental health services. If not, don’t be shy to ask for a referral. 
  • Ask family, friends, or your local clergy. 
  • Seek a recommendation or referral from your local care provider. 

Factors To Consider Before Contacting A Mental Health Provider

If you haven’t been in contact with a mental health provider in the recent past, you’re probably struggling to find one who meets your individual needs. Here are a few things to consider before connecting with a mental health professional: 

  • The kind of mental health provider you want
  • Analyze your mental condition
  • Determine if you need counseling, medications or both
  • Your health insurance coverage

Your Preferred Mental Health Provider

A mental health provider diagnoses mental health issues and offers treatment. A number of them have more advanced credentials, training, and education. The average mental health practitioner should have at least a master’s degree. 

Ensure that your preferred professional is licensed to offer mental health services and to provide legal advice as well. The services and licensing aspects are primarily based on the practitioner’s specialty area, training, and state law. 

Here are some of the most common kinds of mental health providers: some specialize in specific fields, including family therapy, substance misuse, and depression. They also work in different settings such as community agencies, hospitals, private practice, etc. 

  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurse
  • Physician assistant
  • Licensed professional counselor
  • Licensed clinical social worker

Analyze Your Mental Condition

Many mental health providers today treat a wide range of conditions. It’s essential that you choose one that meets your specific needs. For instance, if you suffer from an eating disorder, be on the lookout for a psychologist who specializes in that specific area. 

If you’re stressed out about your marriage, look no further than a qualified family and marriage therapist. The more complex your mental diagnosis, the more training and expertise you need to seek out in a mental health practitioner. 

Determine If You Need Counselling, Medication, Or Both

A high number of mental health providers today aren’t licensed to write medication prescriptions. Therefore, your choice might depend on the nature of your symptoms as well as your concern. 

In some cases, one person may visit more than one mental health provider. For instance, you might need to visit a psychiatrist to monitor your medications and another for counseling. 

Your Health Insurance Coverage

Your insurance policy might contain a list of mental health providers who may only deal with one or two mental practices. Do your research and check with your Medicaid, Medicare, or insurance company and explore the kinds of mental health services they cover. It’s also essential that you learn your benefit limits. 

Where Can I Get A Doctor’s Note For Emotional Support Animals? 

As you guessed it, there are tons of scammers out there who will do anything for money – including offering you a fake doctor’s note in exchange for cash. Fact is, you don’t need to part with anything to get a doctor’s note. 

You only need to contact a licensed mental health professional (could be a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, therapist, etc.). Ask around for available LMHPs in your area who will be willing to analyze your mental health and write you a sample doctor letter for an emotional support animal. Reach out to them and schedule an appointment. 

Ensure you share your honest history with mental health issues and raise any concerns you’d like your provider to address. Also, be clear about why you’d want an ESA and how it will benefit your emotional and mental health. Only then will you receive a typed/written note from your doctor. 

Final Thought 

It’s perfectly fine to have an emotional support animal to help you cope with your emotional distress and mental health issues. Emotional support animals give a new lease on life to most mentally unstable individuals. 

Contact a mental health professional or your local doctor for medical or psychological advice if you think you might benefit significantly from an ESA. If you don’t have access to either of these, reach out to qualified ESA doctors. They will help connect you to a licensed professional within your state, in line with federal law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a doctor’s note enough for an emotional support animal?

No, it’s not. Legal experts believe that you need to have a signed ESA letter to own an emotional support animal. The letter should be issued by a mental health professional like a social worker, counselor, or psychologist.

You can also get the ESA letter online from qualified medical professional websites, whereby you will need to participate in online video consults to determine eligibility.

How do you get a doctor’s note for an emotional support animal?

Check if you qualify for an ESA by booking an appointment with a licensed mental professional. They will determine whether or not you have an emotional or mental disability (ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc). If the professional confirms that you meet the requirements for an ESA, they will make an official recommendation via a signed ESA letter.

How do I get an emotional support animal letter from a doctor?

It’s not really as hard as you think. All you need is to see your therapist for complete screening of a mental disorder of any kind. From there, you can have a sit-down with your licensed health care professional and open up to them on why you need an ESA. If the doctor confirms that you need a letter, they’ll issue you with a typed/written emotional support animal letter.

What factors should you consider before contacting a mental wellness provider?

Find out the type of mental condition you may be suffering from. This will help you determine the kind of mental specialist you need in your life. It also helps to check your health insurance coverage. Your individual insurance policy might contain a list of mental health providers who may only deal with one or two mental practices

+ 8 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Ada.gov. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html
  2. ‌National Institutes of Health (US and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (2016). Information about Mental Illness and the Brain. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20369/
  3. ‌Adata.org. (2021). Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals | ADA National Network. [online] Available at: https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals
  4. The Humane Society of the United States. (2021). The Fair Housing Act and Assistance Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fair-housing-act-and-assistance-animals
  5. ‌USCIS. (2021). Health Care Worker Certification. [online] Available at: https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/temporary-workers/health-care-worker-certification
  6. Magnus, W., Saad Nazir, Anilkumar, A.C. and Kamleh Shaban (2021). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441838/
  7. ‌Counseling.org. (2021). Overview of State Licensing of Professional Counselors. [online] Available at: https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-requirements/overview-of-state-licensing-of-professional-counselors
  8. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Regional Health Data Networks, Donaldson, M.S. and Lohr, K.N. (2016). Health Databases and Health Database Organizations: Uses, Benefits, and Concerns. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236556/
Lisandra Fields

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Lisandra Fields is a freelance medical writer from Pennsylvania who creates articles, blog posts, fact sheets, and website content for health-related organizations across North America. She has experience working with a wide range of clients, from health charities to businesses to media outlets. She has experience writing about cancer, diabetes, ALS, cannabis, personality psychology, and COVID-19, among many other topics. Lisandra enjoys reading scientific journal articles and finding creative ways to distill the ideas for a general audience.

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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