I actually stumbled upon ESAD out of the blue, and as a pet person who is committed to emotional service animals and the humans that need them, I reached out for an interview. ESAD is a group of licensed mental health pros who provide services for your ESA (emotional support animal) online and in-person. Located in Boca Raton, Florida, they help people across the States. Lucky for me, the founder, Chaz Stevens, replied quickly and with a lot of warmth. Here’s the rundown on ESAD.
Can you briefly tell us about ESAD’s mission? When was it founded, and on what principles?
Being forever in the IT business (worked for IBM, Microsoft, NASA, and others), with zero experience in the mental health field, this as just another “client website project” offering emotional support animal letters.
But my PhD client was my buddy, so I decided to stick around and see what it was all about.
Then soon, after going live, clients with the most horrific – straight out of a horror movie – life stories came to us, badly broken inside, desperately needing a hand, and looking for help … our help … any help.
You would not believe those stories.
And that changed my life.
Now, half a decade later, we’re helping clients across the globe. It’s humbling – very humbling – to be a small part of bringing smiles and wellness to those folks. And there are dogs and cats in the mix!
One week, you get calls from people crying, a week later you see a smiling picture of them with their assistance animal. I mean, how freaking cool is that?
Our mission: At ESAD, we’re a global-minded, innovative company looking to drive positive change and solve social problems with the use of technology.
- Committed to creating a world that works for everyone.
- On a mission to improve the online mental health care business using cutting edge technology.
- Building unique, disruptive, and scalable products and services.
- Consistently giving back to our community.
Our principles: We strive to show a strong moral compass. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and show respect for the world around us. Quite simply, we want to do the right thing… every day, in everything we do.
What is included in a purchase from ESAD?
Our clients typically aren’t the Groupon crowd, they’re seeking a premium product; they aren’t just “buying a letter from us,” they’re buying all that goes into the best emotional support animal products on the market. Our letters flat out work.
Officially, our role is an “information gathering services company” facilitating the connection between client and clinician for ESADoggy and patient and doctor for ESADMedical.com.
Given US Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recently (and long overdue) updated guidance designed to weed out online fraud in the emotional support animal business, our Housing Pro 2020 products fully comply with these new regulations requiring clinicians to have personal client knowledge and an ongoing treating relationship. And thankfully, no more letters written for a fee (good riddance).
Also, according to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the industry.
Living by the golden rule, our customer service is the best you’ll ever experience in any business. A review of our reviews will note LOTS of 5-stars, lots of smiling faces… We treat you like we want to be treated; it really is that simple. And we won’t sell you junk, especially since many of our clients have a daily struggle with anxiety, depression, and stress. Unless you’re ethically flexible, who wants to add to that?
One other point, with Trust Pilot and other review gathering sites, fake reviews are rampant and hurtful ones easily deleted.
With Google reviews like ours? Pretty much impossible to alter. For instance, if we did a client wrong, the first thing they’re likely to do is go leave a bad Google review – which can’t be deleted.
You also have CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) options; what made ESAD include that?
Our mission is to put clients into a better place, and CBT is one way of getting there. We have 1,100 highly educated, talented providers under contract … emotional support animal products and services is just one facet of their abilities.
I noticed that with purchases, you’ll be sending KN95 face masks to the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico. I’m originally from New Mexico, so it caught my eye – can you tell us a little bit about the initiative and why you chose it?
Do you miss New Mexico food? It’s really good, isn’t it? (MPCC: OMGGGG YES)
The Navajo situation breaks my heart. There are tears in my eyes as I write this… those poor people, often overlooked, struggling to make it work. We’re so happy to send along masks, I just wish I had the resources to do 1000x more.
What’s on deck for the future of ESAD, especially considering COVID-19?
Increased depression, anxiety, and stress is going to be here … a permanent aspect of our lives …
ESAD has a simply AMAZING team of providers (just AMAZING). We’ve got an ethical, reliable, and HIPAA-compliant ecosystem… I have a team that makes me look good. In the end, I just want to take a small dent out of the world we live in, one client and one animal at a time. We like what online therapy is doing; we just think we can do it much better.
Chaz Stevens is an entrepreneur, former journalist, and well-known activist who has appeared on the front pages of Time, Miami Herald, Guardian, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He’s also appeared on The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and Fox News.
Chaz lives in South Florida with his two rescue dogs. Before launching ESAD International, he could be found working on IT for IBM, Microsoft, and The Walt Disney World Company. But his favorite job is the one he’s now doing full time — helping people get to a better place.