Animal Assisted Play Therapy® Ethics & Animal Welfare



Animal Assisted Play Therapy® is a complex form of therapeutic intervention that requires knowledge and skill competencies from several different fields. Whenever live animals are involved in therapy, there are a number of special ethical and welfare considerations that differ from those in other forms of therapy. It is not nearly enough for therapists to take their “nice animals” to work with them, nor is it sufficient to take one online course and begin practicing. There are scope of practice issues that are important for any therapist considering the involvement of an animal to consider. Nonhuman animals are sentient beings whose needs must be attended to carefully. The welfare of animals involved also relates directly to the quality of experience for clients, therapeutically as well as in terms of risk management.

This online course highlights the key factors that one must learn and bear in mind when involving animals in their professional AAT and AAPT work. It includes sections on professional ethics, principles of practice, therapist competencies, boundaries of practice, relationships, natural environments, animal welfare (including discussion of the Five Freedoms, animal consent, equipment, and animal choices), therapist awareness, and risk management processes. The course offers a variety of exercises and tools for therapists to assess their own progress and areas for future development. It also pulls together elements of other courses within an ethics and welfare context.

CE Credits Available: 6

Prerequisites: This course will be more meaningful if you have already taken the Introduction to Animal Assisted Play Therapy® online course (and the text for this course is the same as for that one). Although the reading for this course uses only sections from the required text, it is advisable that you first read the entire book (which you do in the Intro to AAPT course). This course is required for those interested in becoming AAPT supervisors and instructors, as well as for certified therapists as a continuing professional development course.

Required Text (sold separately): VanFleet, R., & Faa-Thompson, T. (2017). Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.

Instructor: Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, Licensed Psychologist (PA)

Learning Objectives: Participants in this course will be able to…

  1. Describe at least 2 reasons why scope of practice issues matter in AAT/AAPT.
  2. Identify and define the 8 key competencies therapists must develop.
  3. Describe at least 2 reasons why it is important that therapists develop fluency in reading the body language of each species with whom they work.
  4. Give 2 examples of how therapists can offer choice to their animal partners.
  5. Define what is meant by “goodness of fit” when applied to the practice of AAT/AAPT.
  6. Give an example of each of the “five freedoms” as applied to AAT/AAPT.
  7. Identify how you would handle it if a child client grabbed the tail of a dog, cat, or horse.
  8. Describe 2 factors that might cause an otherwise nice dog to snarl or bite.
  9. Identify how you would handle clients picking up cats and small dogs.
  10. Practice with lower risk and higher quality in the fields of AAT/AAPT.
  11. Understand the need to learn a great deal about animals.
  12. Describe at least 4 features of an excellent therapist-animal relationship.
  13. Describe what is meant by & why it is important to work within the animal’s natural environment.
  14. Describe the 3 criteria that should be applied to decisions about dressing up animals.

You will automatically receive access to the course materials upon completion of payment. Please make sure that you add to your address book or email whitelist.

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