Who Can Write an ESA Letter in California?

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) play a crucial role in providing comfort and support to individuals dealing with various mental health conditions. In California, the process of obtaining an ESA letter, a key document that allows individuals to have their support animals, involves the expertise of licensed mental health professionals. Understanding who can issue these letters and the criteria involved is essential for those seeking emotional support through animal companionship.

Who Can Issue an ESA Letter in California?

In the state of California, specific licensed mental health professionals are authorized to prescribe an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) for individuals in need. These professionals include:

  • Psychiatrists: These medical doctors specialize in mental health and are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They can evaluate individuals and recommend an ESA based on their professional assessment.
  • Psychologists: Licensed psychologists are trained in assessing and treating various mental health disorders. They can provide evaluations and issue ESA letters based on their clinical expertise.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers: LCSWs possess training in clinical social work and are licensed to provide therapeutic services. They can assess individuals and determine if an ESA would be beneficial for their mental health.
  • Therapists: Mental health therapists with appropriate licensing and qualifications can also assess individuals and issue ESA letters if they meet the criteria.

Criteria for Qualifying for an ESA Letter:

The issuance of an ESA letter in California is based on specific criteria. Individuals seeking an ESA must:

  • Have a Diagnosed Mental Health Condition: To qualify for an ESA, individuals must have a diagnosed mental health condition recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, and others may warrant the need for an ESA.
  • Demonstrate the Need for Emotional Support: The licensed mental health professional evaluating the individual must determine that an ESA would provide emotional support that alleviates symptoms of the diagnosed condition.
  • Establish a Therapeutic Relationship: The process involves the individual having an established therapeutic relationship with the mental health professional issuing the ESA letter. This relationship ensures proper assessment and support tailored to the individual’s needs.

Importance of ESA Letters:

ESA letters hold significant importance for individuals requiring emotional support animals. These letters:

  • Provide Legal Protection: An ESA letter serves as documentation that allows individuals to live with their support animals in housing units that may otherwise have pet restrictions. It also allows for travel accommodations in certain situations.
  • Support Mental Health Treatment: Emotional Support Animals can offer invaluable companionship and comfort, supplementing traditional therapy and medications in managing mental health conditions.
  • Enhance Emotional Well-being: The presence of an ESA can reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and stress, promoting emotional well-being and stability in individuals with mental health challenges.

The Process of Obtaining an ESA Letter:

Obtaining an ESA letter in California involves specific steps:

  • Seek Professional Evaluation: Individuals should schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health professional to discuss their mental health concerns and the potential benefits of an ESA.
  • Assessment and Evaluation: During sessions, the professional will assess the individual’s mental health condition and determine if an ESA would be beneficial based on their clinical judgment.
  • Issuance of ESA Letter: If the professional determines that an ESA would be beneficial, they will issue an ESA certification outlining the necessity of the animal for emotional support.


In California, obtaining an ESA letter involves consultation and evaluation by licensed mental health professionals who can diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Understanding the criteria and process for obtaining an ESA letter is crucial for individuals seeking emotional support through animal companionship. These letters not only provide legal protections but also play a vital role in supporting mental health treatment and enhancing emotional well-being for those in need.


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