After a tough year dealing with false reports from the media about the therapy services she provides , Carla Black MFT sat down to write this very difficult response to the negative attention she and her mental health clients have faced.
Carla Black MFT assesses mental health patients to determine whether they may benefit from an ESA, when keeping a pet at home can compliment that individuals progress through therapy. She asks each individual whether they intent to, or are keeping, a cat or dog. She declines to write ESA Letters for exotic pets, any endangered species, or otherwise unusual animals that some may seek to keep as a pet under the guise of an ESA.
Read her story here.
“Even though I have a strong commitment to legitimately assess people to see if they qualify to have emotional support animals (ESAs), there have been times when I have almost been treated like an axe murderer.
I can see why other therapists won’t go near this kind of work. I have had someone impersonate me and forge my signatures on letters. I’ve also been stalked, staked out, ambushed, harassed, and threatened for the major part of a year. I have had reporters who were trying to do sensationalistic pieces about ESAs, and have falsely implied that I have approved a goat to go into movie theatres and trot around anywhere the person would like. This cannot be further from the truth.
I clearly state on my website and when I speak with people that ESAs are ONLY for housing or flying, and that’s all. But a smarmy reporter didn’t care that I was legitimately trying to help people. He just wanted to get a name for himself, so he made things up. The final blow was being reported to my licensing board by him. Why did he do this? I have no idea. I guess some folks are just really mean- spirited.”
ESAs are ONLY for housing or flying
“Then there was the investigative producer who had one of his reporters make a fake therapy appointment. I’m guessing they were wanting to do a video recording of me without me knowing it. And then they would probably try to bait me. The reporter changed the appointment several times. When the day came for me to see her, I called to confirm the time. She said she would be there. So, I waited, and she didn’t show. After 15 minutes I called and left a message. Thirty minutes later, I called and said I would no longer wait. One hour after she was due, there was loud knocking on doors, pounding on windows, frantic doorbell ringing, etc. I didn’t answer. Luckily, I have a video doorbell and was able to see that this was an entirely different woman than the one who initially contacted me. Not only did she show up a full hour after the appointment time, she came back and showed up around 8am the next day…. with a cameraman.
I was subsequently contacted by the investigative producer who began bullying me immediately about wanting to interview me about ESAs. He was clearly extremely angry that their plan was foiled. I’d have to have been insane to walk into that lion’s den, so I obviously declined. He then told me if I didn’t grant his people an interview, I’d be at a Starbucks, or a market and a news team would descend upon me. I told him that he should go after the real offenders and interview the people who sell the fake emotional support and service dog vests. Or he should have interviewed people whose websites state that they are dog registries. Incidentally, all the sites that contain the word “registry” are fake. There is no such thing as an ESA registry. So, beware of all of those. I saw a letter from one of the fake sites and it was actually signed by a PhD in Education. That’s far from legal.”
There is no such thing as an ESA registry
“At any rate, the investigative producer remained true to his word. I lived in terror for the better part of a year, constantly looking over my shoulder for a news crew to show up. Finally, just when I began to relax and hoped his threats were empty, someone with a TV camera ambushed me and my daughter coming out of a nail salon. I ducked into a nearby office until she finally left. Shortly thereafter, ABC aired a disjointed and disparaging report insinuating that I was responsible for fake vests and certifying exotic animals. As long as ABC insinuated and didn’t come right out and say it, I couldn’t sue them. A flight attendant was interviewed who stated that the aircraft could essentially become a veritable Noah’s Ark. None of this is true. In fact, there is a limit to how many ESAs can be on board an aircraft at the same time.
This investigative reporter also interviewed someone from a psychological association, lying to him about me so that he could get the result he wanted. He also reported me to my licensing board a year ago. This was just because I wouldn’t give him an interview. I am still currently licensed and in good standing with my board. I was completely blind-sighted and in shock by this kind of behavior. I thought reporters like this only worked for the tabloids.”
“I am still currently licensed and in good standing with my board.”
“So, why do I do this work? I sometimes wonder that myself. I pretty much feel like Sisyphus, who, according to Greek mythology, had to roll a huge boulder up a hill only for it to roll right back down, and start again the next day. This was his punishment for eternity. However, I hope I have a greater purpose. Most therapists won’t do this kind of work, and I can certainly understand why. It has taken a tremendous toll on me both emotionally and physically. But, in the final analysis, if not me, who? I speak to people daily who have stories that are unbelievably tragic. I would venture to say that just about every day, I speak to someone who has been raped or incested. Just because their scars aren’t physically apparent, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Abused women have often said that the physical scars don’t hurt as much as the emotional ones. #metoo. So, you ESA naysayers, would you have been traumatized if you were in the military and your best friend was literally in pieces next to you? Or would you be an ESA doubter if you were sold into sexual slavery at 14, or if your father killed your precious pet and made you watch while he did it? Would you be a doubter if you had panic attacks because you were in your twenties with a terminal disease that wasn’t visible?
I speak to numerous people who were in the military who come back from service as empty shells. They can no longer communicate with their loved ones. They sit in dark rooms and essentially feel nothing because of the hell that they experienced. The only thing that can bring a smile to their face is their trusted pet.
There is a lot to be said about the love and comfort of an animal. Sometimes that animal is the only living being that a person can trust.”
Carla Black MFT clearly states that her therapy services provide ESA Letters for people working through therapy or counseling, suffering from deep mental issues, who legitimately need a cat or dog at home for comfort, or for their ESA pet to travel with them on a plane in times of absolute need. Carla Black MFT declines interviews with media to adhere to patient confidentiality rules from the State of California.