Emotional Support Pets Guide: How to Obtain an Emotional Support Animal by 30Seconds Mom

Emotional Support Pets Guide: How to Obtain an Emotional Support Animal

Pets are a delight to have in your home, and they can provide you with companionship, support and comfort. However, although neurotypical individuals are not dependent on pets, individuals with certain psychological conditions keep animals for therapeutic benefits such as emotional support. These pets are called emotional support animals (ESAs).

The process of getting an ESA requires an expert to assess your mental health and determine if it will be beneficial. Next, a therapist or psychiatrist will determine the possibility of including one in your treatment plan, and you will need a compulsory letter from a mental health professional. You can select any appropriate animal as an ESA based on your preferences and lifestyle, but birds, dogs and cats are among the most popular choices.

Here are steps to help you get an emotional support pet:

1. Establish Need and Eligibility

The first step in the process of getting an ESA is to establish if you are eligible for one. ESAs are part of mental health treatment for those who can get some therapeutic benefit from their presence, which distinguishes them from regular pets. They provide unconditional love and support to patients with anxiety, depression and PTSD, alleviating their symptoms. So, the type and severity of symptoms, as well as the level of existing support, must be assessed by a mental health professional before you can get one.

Generally, individuals must have a prior diagnosis of a mental health condition, and it must significantly impact their daily lives to warrant an ESA. The condition must be recognized in a diagnostic manual such as the DSM.

2. Consult With a Mental Health Professional

Once you determine your eligibility, you must visit a mental health professional, as only they can prescribe one for you. A therapist or psychiatrist will evaluate the benefits and implications of having an animal and will determine if your special circumstances and mental health condition warrant one. If they think having one will improve your symptoms, they will give you a formal letter allowing you to get an animal. After filling in an application, you can get this document from traditional therapists or online resources like Wellness Wag.

A typical ESA letter is written only by a licensed mental health professional. It should include information about your mental health condition, the therapeutic benefit of having an animal companion and a recommendation for the presence of an ESA as part of your treatment. This will establish the legality of housing accommodations, air travel and other rights of your furry (or feathered) companion. Once you get your letter approved, you can go to a pet store, shelter or breeder and get your desired animal.

3. Selecting the Right Animal

The most important factor when selecting the right animal is to consider which species you are most comfortable with. If you are a dog person, a cat might not give you emotional support as well as a dog can, so first determine which animal you want to get. Consider the size of your animal and whether your housing space can accommodate it. Look for animals that are calm, affectionate and well-behaved over aggressive ones, as they can provide you with better mental health support.

Many shelters and rescue organizations let you adopt an animal. Many pups and kittens need a loving home, and you can give them one by adopting them from a shelter. Animals from rescue organizations often are already neutered and vaccinated, too. But if you have specific requirements, such as breed or temperament, you can work with a reputable breeder, too.

4. Training and Socialization 

Your ESA might not immediately be comfortable with you. You must socialize with them and train them to ensure they behave appropriately in various situations. Obedience training will improve your communication with your ESA as it helps them learn basic commands like sit, stay, come and heel. The better trained an animal is and the less aggression it shows, the more likely it is to be accepted in housing accommodations and public spaces.

You should also socialize your ESA with various people, animals, sounds, smells and experiences from a young age, as it may reduce their fear, anxiety and aggression in unfamiliar places. If they develop positive associations with new environments, they can adapt to changes in their surroundings better and interact with other animals, strangers and unfamiliar stimuli calmly. Otherwise, they may show aggression and will be unsuitable for emotional support.

In Summary

Animals are great companions to humans and can provide valuable emotional support. Their support and bonding are particularly important with individuals with certain mental health issues including depression and anxiety, as it may mitigate their symptoms. When animals are used therapeutically like this, they are known as emotional support animals or ESAs.

To get an ESA, you will need a consultation with a mental health professional. If they think an animal companion will benefit your treatment, they will issue you an ESA letter. You can use this letter to get your desired animal. However, remember to train and socialize it adequately so it can function as an emotional support animal.

Note: The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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Elisa Schmitz
Love this! Several of our children have relied on pets (dogs and cats) for years as companions and for emotional support. Thank you for sharing the process of getting pets established officially as emotional support animals!
Donna John
My daughter had her dog certified as an emotional support animal. Thank you for explaining the process! Pets can be so important for our mental health. I know my dog, though not certified, is my emotional support!
Animals are just the best.

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