Human-Animal Relationships in AAPT: Special Topics


This 4-part series, recorded from live webinars offered in 2020, focuses on special topics designed to enhance participants’ understanding of the human-animal relationship in Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) and Animal Assisted Play Therapy® (AAPT). The co-creators of AAPT, Risë VanFleet and Tracie Faa-Thompson, focus on multiple species in their sessions, with an emphasis on dogs and horses. The other presenters, Val Miraglia and Jodi Smith, focus primarily on dogs, although the general principles will apply to all species involved in this work. The four sessions of this course are below with their respective presenters:

  • Enhancing Our Human-Animal Skills ~ Risë VanFleet
  • Resilience 2.0: The Rest of the Story ~ Val Miraglia
  • What Does “Choice” Really Mean? ~ Tracie Faa-Thompson
  • Socialization: Preparing Dogs & Beyond ~ Jodi Smith

Online courses exist for other aspects of AAPT (see for a catalog. In this online course, topics that lend themselves to all forms of AAIs are covered, using AAPT as an example of some of the concepts and methods. Practitioners of many different forms of AAIs are likely to benefit, including beginners as well as those with years of experience. The course is designed for counselors, educators, social workers, psychologists, family therapists, allied health professionals, and anyone else interested.

The sessions are described individuially below, along with two or three learning objectives for each session. The sessions are not limited to those objectives, though. Each session will include a PowerPoint presentation, case examples or video or live demonstrations of the material, and discussion periods. All of the sessions and learning objectives will focus on practical aspects of Animal Assisted Play Therapy® that can be applied to other forms of interventions with animals as well. Recordings were made when these sessions were first offered as webinars in 2020.

All presenters are highly experienced in Animal Assisted Play Therapy® and other forms of AAIs, and are Certified AAPT Supervisors and Instructors.

Each of the sessions within this online course is described in the next sections.


SESSION DESCRIPTIONS (each session is 2 hours)


Session 1: Enhancing Our Human-Animal Skills
with Dr. Risë VanFleet

Living and working with animals is a complex process. Even though many people have lived with companion animals their whole lives, nowadays there is much more to learn. That is especially true when one wants to create reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and positive working relationships. In Animal Assisted Play Therapy®, there is emphasis on relationships between the animals and the therapist as well as between the animals and the clients. This emphasis can be incorporated into other types of AAT/AAI quite readily. This webinar covers the nature of relationship that serves both animals and people well, and the knowledge and skills necessary to attain and maintain it. Practical, specific skills that can be used to build enjoyable, healthy, and two-way relationships are covered, followed by discussion from the original webinar on which this is based..

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to…
1. Define at least 5 features of a healthy attachment relationship with animal companions.
2. Describe and engage in at least 3 methods of enhancing one’s relationship skills with animals.
3. Consider the animal’s point of view at home and at work in ways that build relationship and encourage better decision-making pertaining to the animal.

Presenter: Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, CAAPT-S-I, is a Licensed Psychologist specializing in children and families, a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Animal Behavior Specialist. She has 45 years of experience in mental health work in a variety of settings, and is a cofounder with Tracie Faa-Thompson of the field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy®. She conducted her first AAPT intervention 38 years ago, but has worked systematically to develop the field for the past 16 years. She is coauthor with Faa-Thompson of the Maxwell Award-winning book, Animal Assisted Play Therapy (2017), and numerous other manuals, books, chapters, and articles. She is primarily involved in training other mental health professionals and runs a private practice and her Playful Pooch Program in southcentral Pennsylvania.


Session 2: Resilience 2.0—The Rest of the Story
with Val Miraglia

A new study refutes the old adage that hard times make you stronger, so resiliency may not be what you think it is.  Is it innate? Learned? And how does it apply to animals or Animal Assisted Play Therapy®? Let's learn and discuss what helps us (humans and critters) bounce back, and how to increase our elasticity so we can become stronger, and help our clients to do the same, especially in these tough times.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to…
1. Define what resilience is and what it is not.
2. Describe the ways in which resilience affects animals.
3. Identify at least 3 idea on how to use resilience considerations in Animal Assisted Play Therapy®.

Presenter: Val Miraglia, LPA, RPT-S, CAAPT/S, FT/I, has been a practicing therapist for the past 27 years in Anchorage, Alaska, most of that time in private practice.  Although currently semi-retired, she continues in a supervisory capacity to therapists all over the world.  She received the "Light of Hope" Community Recognition Award in 2003 for "outstanding efforts on behalf of Alaska's Children." Her English Labrador Retriever dog, Luke, worked with her doing Animal Assisted Play Therapy® in the past.  He, too, is retired but continues to add his two cents in supervision when needed!


Session 3: What Does “Choice” Really Mean?
with Tracie Faa-Thompson

Many who work with animals are now discussing the need to give them choices. What does this really mean? When can we give our animals choices whilst working with them in a therapeutic environment? What does choice really mean? And in reality, are we the humans actually doing the choosing for them? This webinar addresses all of these questions in terms of how we approach it in Animal Assisted Play Therapy® and in other forms of AAT/AAI work, as well as in our at-home lives with companion animals.

Learning objectives:
Participants will be able to…
1. Describe what is meant by “giving animals choices.”
2. Describe at least 3 examples of choices that therapists can give to their animals.
3. Explain at least 1 way that humans/therapists can inadvertently make choices for their animals and 1 way to counteract that tendency.

Presenter: Tracie Faa-Thompson, BA Social Work, MA Crim, PG NDPT, Clin Hypno, Cert EAGALA, CAAPT-S-I, is a specialist social worker in adoption working with traumatized children and adoptive/foster families in Northumberland, UK. She is a BAPT-Registered Play Therapist, Certified Filial Therapist-Instructor, an Animal Behavior Specialist, and more. Hailing from a Scottish/Romany Traveller family, Tracie has grown up with dogs and horses as integral to her native culture. She is the founder of Turn About Pegasus, an equine assisted program for at-risk youth. She has been involved in numerous equine organizations, and was the founder and for 22 years the Chair of the North Northumberland Riding for the Disabled Association Centre. She is cofounder with Dr. Risë VanFleet of the field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy®, and coauthor with her of their Maxwell-Award-winning book, Animal Assisted Play Therapy (2017) and numerous other manuals, chapters, and articles.


Session 4: Socialization—Preparing Your Dog for AAPT/AAI, and Beyond…
with Jodi Smith

Animals are increasingly being incorporated into a variety of therapeutic settings. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the value of including animals in therapeutic work; however, the process is complex and sufficient training is necessary. Animal Assisted Play Therapy® (AAPT) is much more than simply bringing your pet to work. AAPT promotes effective healing in treatment for clients of all ages and abilities and in a variety of settings.

Socialization to people, places and things is a key component of preparing an animal (regardless of species) for play therapy work (or any form of therapy work). This webinar discusses why this is important, what it looks like, and then provides an overview of positive methods used to accomplish this. Canines will be the focus, but much of the information can be applied to other species.

Learning objectives:
Participants will be able to…
1. Discuss the importance of socialization in preparing animals for work in Animal Assisted Play Therapy® and other forms of AAI.
2. Identify at least 4 positive methods of socializing their animals for play therapy work and other forms of AAI.
3. List 3 key factors for including animals in play therapy and other forms of therapy.

Presenter: Jodi Smith, LCSW, RPT-S, CAAPT-S-I, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California, a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor and a Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist® Supervisor & Instructor. She has been working with children, teenagers and their families, in various capacities, for over 25 years. Jodi is currently the Director of Norton-Fisher Child & Family Programs for West End Family Counseling and maintains a private practice, Play Is Powerful!, in Claremont, California.


Continuing Education Information

The Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The FEAPT Center maintains responsibility for this program and its contents. The Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (5732) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The FEAPT Center solely is responsible for all aspects of the program. It is also an Association for Play Therapy (APT) Approved Provider 95-014. This program has been approved by a number of state social work boards (please contact us for this info). 8 total continuing education credits/clock hours will be awarded to participants who complete the entire webinar series. Partial credit cannot be given. No exceptions can be made to this policy. Some states have more restrictive policies than others—please check with them directly.

This course qualifies for 8 continuing education/clock hours. The CE is offered for those receiving an 85% or higher on the short-essay assessment questions that come with the course. Submit it to when completed and allow 2-3 weeks to receive your CE documentation.

You will automatically receive the course materials upon completion of payment. Please make sure that you add to your address book or email whitelist. The course materials will come from this email. If you do not get the materials within 1 hour of completing checkout, please check your spam or junk folder.

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