ESABetter ™SKU: ES-ESABETTER
This product is highly recommended for college students and residents of these states.
Growth in the presence of emotional support animals (ESAs) in our society has recently garnered a substantial amount of attention, with stories focused on the increasing number of animals claimed as ESAs, the societal impact, the fraudulent industry claiming to certify ESAs, and the various types of animals described as “certified.”
We note there is no overarching licensing or accrediting body for this matter, nor are there federal or state mandates at this time. We do however strongly believe federal laws will be updated in 2019-2020.
In response, various leading industry associations (including the American Counseling Association and American Psychological Association) recommend clinicians have specialized training and experience in working with human-animal bond in counseling. ESAD strongly suggests that clients do not seek counseling or assessment for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA recommendation letter.
ESABetter for ESA Certification (ESABetter v1.0)
Housing providers usually consider the reliability of letters provided to offer verification of the need for an assistance animal and weighs factors including, but not limited to;
- The extent of the provider’s knowledge about the individual;
- The nature of their relationship;
- Whether that relationship is of an ongoing therapeutic nature;
- The basis for the assessment of the individual;
- The specificity of the letter;
- and the basis of the assessment that the animal will ameliorate symptoms.
Based upon the work of Jeffrey N. Younggren, Cassandra L. Boness, Leisl M. Bryant, and Gerald P. Koocher, the ESAD Comprehensive Assessment Model for ESA Certification (Housing) is comprised of a 4-pronged approach (see below).
This model aligns with professional ethics, standards of professional practice, and the law, and provides clear guidelines for conducting ESA evaluations.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
Unlike traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyze problems, pathology and past life events, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate coaching and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.
What to Expect
Goal-setting is at the foundation of SFBT; one of the first steps is to identify and clarify your goals. The therapist will begin by questioning what you hope to get out of working with the therapist and how, specifically, your life would change when steps were taken to resolve problems. By answering these types of questions, you can begin to identify solutions and come up with a plan for change. One of the key questions the therapist asks is called the miracle question: “If a miracle occurred while you were asleep tonight, what changes would you notice in your life tomorrow?” This opens up your mind to creative thinking and, again, to setting goals and developing a clear plan that will lead to life-changing solutions.
ESABetter includes a comprehensive online assessment (WHODAS and ESAD Screening 3.1) and three hour-long clinical sessions with a licensed mental health professional. These sessions will be conducted via a HIPAA-compliant video call, or when available, in person. One session will include both client and animal, which will allow the clinician to assess the animal’s impact. Observations with and without the animal is essential, as it characterizes and clarifies the assistance provided to the client.
When/if issued, the ESAD Certification (Housing/Travel) Letter of Recommendation is valid for six months.
Housing providers generally look for reliable documentation from a provider who has an ongoing therapeutic relationship with the client. Interest is expressed with regards to the evaluation procedures used to determine functional limitations.
It is important to note you are purchasing mental health care sessions, not an emotional support animal letter. Only after a comprehensive, ongoing, and throughout evaluation (described below) can your therapist determine if an ESA letter is an appropriate recommendation.
Components of the video therapeutic sessions include:
- A thorough assessment of the individual requesting an emotional support animal certification to establish a disability and disability-related need.
- Assessing the interaction of the client with the animal to determine whether the animal’s presence has a demonstrably beneficial effect on the patient.
Regulations and Ramifications
All service, emotional support, and therapy animals must meet current state, local, and federal laws and policies regarding vaccinations and county licensing/registration, as would any other companion animal. Expenses and other considerations associated with such compliance are the responsibility of the animal’s owner/handler, and financial or other access barriers do not exempt the owner from this legal responsibility.
Specific potential risks to animals, clients, the public, and counselors are identified below.
Risks to Animals
- Neglect or other abuse; poor mental health may prevent adequate animal care
- Undue stress from consistent work during accompaniment, including stressful environments
- Undue stress from being handled by a person without specialized training
- Illness, undue stress, or injury from public interactions
Risks to Clients
- Inadequate treatment of a mental health disorder
- Injury or property damage from an inadequately trained or socialized animal
- Zoonotic infection or disease
- Animal allergies
- Potential fraud/legal concerns if ESA is misrepresented as a service animal
- Financial and emotional burdens due to potential behavior problems associated with inadequately trained and socialized companion animals
- Misconception that a relationship with an ESA replaces or substitutes for professional mental health care or human relationships
Risks to the Public
- Injury or emotional damage from inadequately trained animal
- Untrained or unsocialized animals may be more likely to be stressed or aggressive in public
- Unsocialized animals may be disruptive and interfere with normal activities
- Maladaptive interactions with other animals (especially toward service animals)
- Zoonotic infection or disease from animal
- Animal allergies and phobias
- Contributes to public skepticism, which hurts those with valid helper animals
- The more unsuitable the animal, the greater the risk (i.e., exotic pet, undomesticated/wild animal)
- When more fraudulent animals have greater public access, more public risk is incurred
With a team of 1,100 mental health care practitioners across the globe, you’ll engage with a locally-licensed and -practicing therapist.