Service dogs undergo strict training regimes that target particular needs, which include providing symptom relief for individuals with mental, physical or medical disabilities. Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are pups specifically trained to relieve symptoms associated with disorders like PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, depression and anxiety.
PSDs offer comfort and emotional support by providing physical contact, interrupting self-harming behaviours and reminding owners to take medicine.
Owning a psychiatric service dog requires you to have a PSD letter to avoid struggling with non-compliance issues when you need access to housing, air travel, educational institutions and other public spaces. So, how do you obtain these letters and utilize them effectively for your mental health support?
Here is what you need to know.
Psychiatric Service Dog Letter Explained
A psychiatric service dog letter is a prescription letter issued by a certified/licensed mental health professional, for instance, a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or counselor. It is a formal recommendation for a person to live with a psychiatric service dog that will help them deal with their mental health challenges.
The components in this letter include:
- The name and the contacts of the patient.
- The name, credentials, state license number, and contact information. Such information is important as it helps demonstrate the qualifications that allow the professional to make such recommendations.
- It also has a concise statement explaining why the patient needs the PSD. It must demonstrate the nature of the patient’s mental health condition and the PSD’s role in providing assistance, support and comfort.
- The duration in which the individual requires services from the PSD. Sometimes, it is open-ended, while in other instances, it has an expiration date.
The letter grants you rights like allowing you to travel with your dog in the cabin of planes without being charged. It also allows you to enjoy accommodation with no charges or deposit in buildings with a no pets policy. You can also access places like restaurants, stores and public venues.
How to Obtain a Psd Letter
Below are the steps you need to follow to get the PSD letter and enjoy the rights it comes with.
Connect With a Licensed Mental Healthcare Professional (LMHP)
The first step involves consulting a licensed mental health consultant, where you establish a relationship. Here, you begin the assessment procedure, where they ask you relevant questions to help them identify your problem.
Complete Your Assessment With the LMHP
Through opening up about your medical health struggles, the LMHP will use that information to determine whether your status qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They will later offer you all the knowledge you require concerning owning a PSD and how it might serve you.
Request a PSD Letter
Now that your healthcare provider is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that you need a PSD since your condition qualifies for it request them to provide you with a legitimate PSD letter. Ensure it documents their assessment and that they have signed it.
How to Utilize Your Psd Letter Effectively
Here, you must be fully aware of your rights and responsibilities. In addition to that, you should understand how this letter can improve the quality of your life.
Understand your PSD’s role – You must be clear about the functions your pet is trained to perform to help you manage the mental health condition. They may include interrupting self-harming behaviour or offering you comfort in case of panic attacks.
Know your rights – Every country or region has laws and regulations surrounding PSD and mental health. If you live in the United States, you must familiarize yourself with the ADA, FHA and ACAA.
Public access – You should be familiar with the rights that provide a leeway for you and your PSD to access public spaces. While PSDs are allowed to be in public spaces, it is important to be aware of the specific guidelines of your area.
Access accommodation – You should be able to provide your PSD letter to your property manager if you live in FHA-covered housing. The letter will exempt you from issues of pet restriction. Regarding air travel, you need to follow ACAA requirements to be allowed to travel with your PSD.
Educational institutions and workplaces – You may be an employee or a student who needs a PSD to help stabilize your mental health. Present the PSD letter to the authorities in your workplace or educational institution so that you get reasonable accommodation, like letting your dog accompany you.
Proper training and behaviour – No institution, workplace or housing agent would be comfortable accommodating an ill-behaved PSD. Ensure your PSD has the appropriate training and behaves properly whenever they are in public settings. That way, they will be more welcome.
Be ready to educate others – Remember, not everyone understands the concept of living with a PSD. Prepare yourself to educate them on the role the PSD plays in your mental wellness journey and the rights you have under the law. Ensure you carry your PSD letter with you to show it to anyone who might question your PSD’s presence.