About

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Animal Assisted Play Therapy (AAPT) is a full integration of play therapy with animal-assisted therapy, primarily for mental health/psychotherapy and education purposes. It is valuable in helping children, adolescents, and adults, and can be provided for individuals, groups, and families.

AAPT has been defined as “the integrated involvement of animals in the context of play therapy, in which appropriately-trained therapists and animals engage with child, family, & adult clients primarily in play interventions aimed at improving the client’s psychosocial health, while simultaneously ensuring the animal’s well-being and voluntary engagement in the process. Play and playfulness are essential ingredients of the interactions & the relationship” (VanFleet, 2013). The feature that most distinguishes AAPT from other forms of animal assisted therapy (Chandler, 2012; Fine, 2010) is the systematic inclusion and encouragement of play and playfulness as the primary means of expressing feelings, developing relationships, and resolving psychosocial problems (VanFleet, 2008; VanFleet & Faa-Thompson, 2010, 2014).

The International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy Studies (IIAAPTS) was founded to provide cutting-edge training, certification, and continuing professional development opportunities for mental health and animal professionals interested in the integration of psychotherapy, play therapy, and animal assisted therapy, or in providing support services to therapists who wish to conduct AAPT. The practice of AAPT requires a complex set of skills for both therapists and the animals who assist them.

The IIAAPTS has bases in Pennsylvania, USA and in Northumberland, UK. This site provides information about training programs, online courses, certification, and other resources. It also provides information related to competence in AAPT and its ethical practice. Blogs, documents, and videos on this site relate to the many facets of AAPT.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Risë VanFleet at rise@risevanfleet.com.

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