Online Certificate of Education in Animal Assisted Psychotherapy

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"I was at the beginning stages of understanding and incorporating AAP into my practice, and the certificate program was exactly what I needed.  It provided both the educational and practical components I needed to obtain a well-rounded understanding of the field. The instructors were fantastic.  They consistently graded quickly, providing thoughtful and helpful feedback.  They challenged and encouraged me to bring my practice up to the next level." 2019 Certificate Graduate Aimee Maas, MSW, LCSW, CAAP, Carol Stream, IL

Malissa and Karma

"The Certificate Program met and exceeded my goals. I thought the courses covered all that was necessary to practice this specialty knowledgeably, ethically and safely for the animal and for the clients. I am happy to say, it also exceeded my goals. To tell the truth, when I started this program I could not imagine how AAP worked with adult clients. Because each of the 6  courses are flexible enough to allow for individual interests, I was able to learn how AAP benefits adult clients. I am now so excited and passionate that this can really help my adult clients in ways I never could have imagined before!"  2020 Certificate Graduate Janice Shapiro, MFT, CAAP, San Jose, CA

TUITION: $2,100
  Paid in 3 installments of $700 for 3 consecutive months or Pay in Full to receive a $100 discount


Course Location: Online Courses - Self-Paced

CEUs Awarded: 90

How the Certificate in Animal Assisted Psychotherapy will Help You: Our Certificate Program is specifically geared towards mental health graduate students and professionals who want to integrate animals into their professional practice. You are being taught by instructors who lead the field in their own development and practice of AAP with hundreds of clients, and dozens of different animals and different breeds. Our program was designed by professional educators and professional clinicians for professional clinicians! 

There are now best practice standards defined through the American Counseling Association (ACA); ACA and other professional organizations have adopted these "competencies" as the minimum requirements for working with any animal during counseling sessions. AATPC is also part of the international work-group that is further quantifying those standards. In other words, in order to meet the legal and ethical standards of animal assisted counseling/therapy/psychotherapy, all mental health professionals should have training and supervision before they work with an animal with clients. (Read this article to learn about a therapist who lost her license for providing counseling with a dog without having proper training.)

 "I learned more than I ever thought possible regarding Animal Assisted Therapy than when I started this program journey. I am now able to apply my knowledge into clinical practice with academic/research based support. I feel that prior to this program I was incorporating a dog into my therapy and now I feel like I intentionally have interventions that enhance the therapy process and meet treatment goals /outcomes with a therapy dog."  2020 Certificate Graduate, Lynn Carlson, LCHMCS, CAAP, Waynesville, NC

AATPC's Certificate Program has been designed to meet (and in many areas exceed) all of the ACA competencies. As a graduate of the program you will earn the designation Certified Animal Assisted Psychotherapist (CAAP) and will have gained education in: laws and ethics unique to AAP, basic animal ethology; basic positive animal training; how to develop effective interventions consistent with your theoretical orientation; and how to assess your effectiveness as an animal assisted psychotherapist. Individual supervision is included in the cost of the program and is provided with our Training Director, Ellen Winston. 

By earning your Certificate of Education in Animal Assisted Psychotherapy you will have the skills to develop highly effective treatment plans and animal-assisted interventions with a wide variety of clients. By working with our Training Director, AATPC's program is designed to be tailored to your specific animal(s), professional setting(s) and client population(s). Many of our students work with multiple animals (as we do) and have learned as a result of their program, how to use their own creativity and observation to integrate their animals into sessions in infinite ways. Our goal is to teach you how to develop your own client and animal-specific interventions, not just repeat standard interventions. This will help stimulate your practice for years to come. Working with your own animals also provides support for you as a clinician, working in a highly stressful work environment. 

This Certificate of Education does not provide certification of competency - you are not tested as part of the program. However you will be required as part of your program to submit a video and transcription of a session that includes an animal.  Your individual supervision time and submitted assignments will provide information to our instructors about your abilities to safely and ethically provide this specialty to your clients, but AATPC does not assume liability for student's practice behavior. 

Time Commitment: The AAP Certificate Program consists of 6 online courses. It is open enrollment, which means you can apply and begin at any time. Each course is roughly equivalent to a semester course at a graduate university in terms of reading, work-load, writing expectations, and time required. Each course is 15 Continuing Education Hours for a total of 90 Continuing Education Hours. Each course has 3-4 assignments. The entire Certificate program is designed to be completed in about one year, but can be completed more quickly or slowly since each student will work at their own pace. There are no due dates or time restriction for completion.

Course Structure: The Certificate coursework may be completed at the student's own pace because we recognize that work and personal lives can be busy. Ongoing support and consultation is available to students throughout the program and supervision is included in the certificate cost. Students can also network with others from around the world through our virtual classroom. Many of the assignments are traditional reading/writing, but experiential assignments are also included. Students will also be required to submit an audio or video recorded session with transcript. The final course requires conducting a brief research study that includes a client and an animal as part of the therapeutic process. Students will conduct a single subject research design with pre and post treatment measures to be analyzed, or the student can do a qualitative research study. Those with no research background need not be concerned as instructors will provide assistance and support. 

Certificate Earned: Certificate of Education in Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (CAAP)

nbcc sealContinuing Education Hours/Credit: AATPC has been approved by NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors) as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6545. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. AATPC is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. The Certificate Program is also Approved by the Australian Counseling Association (ACA). The completed certificate will provide 90 Continuing Education Hours. 

Course Pre-Requirements: 

  • Participants must be enrolled in or have completed a graduate degree program in a mental health field (counseling, social work, marriage/family therapy, psychology, etc.). Course content is clinically advanced and intended for mental health clinicians with some experience working in the field.
  • Participants will also need an appropriate therapy animal (in training is fine) to work with
  • Participants must be able to videotape a minimum of one (1) session with a live client and animal, and
  • Participants must have permission to conduct a small research project with one (1) client and animal. 
"I am so pleased to have been able to undertake this certificate. It was the best product I could find to boost my qualifications in this area and the fact that it is offered online has meant it is accessible to international students such as myself. The AAT industry is still unregulated in Australia and so this course was not only been helpful in developing my clinical skills, but has also assisted in demonstrating my pursuit of 'best practice'. The courses are of high rigour and practical application." Gwen Shumack, Psychologist, UNE Student Counselling and Psychological Service, Armidale, NSW, Australia.

Have Questions? Please clarify any questions before you apply. Contact Ellen Winston at or 720-266-4444 x2

(Please complete the following application only when you are ready to begin the program. You should receive a response to your application within 7 business days.)

Click Here to Apply  



Course 1: Human Animal Bond

This course forms the basis for the AAP Certificate. The bond between Humans and Animals has been scientifically established, as well as the mutual therapeutic benefits. This course will help you explore how the Human-Animal Bond can be used as a therapeutic medium. The influence of nature will also be explored as it benefits clients.


  • Participants will identify 10 benefits that animals have on humans and their mental health
  • Participants will identify 5 benefits that humans have on animals
  • Participants will understand how animals can be harmed through interactions with humans
  • Participants will be able to develop 3 methods of intervention for mental health clients that are built on the bond between humans and animals
  • Participants will be able to describe 3 ways that the human animal bond can be damaged, or animals harmed through interaction with humans.

Course 2: Legal and Ethical Issues in AAP

In this course we will explore how working with different types of animals can bring up both legal and ethical issues when integrated into your practice. There are numerous legal and ethical considerations, especially related to working with less common animals, or working with multiple animals. The frequent use of the Therapy Zoo in Israel, while not common in the US brings up some interesting therapeutic possibilities that we hope you will consider; but it is not without both legal and ethical complications. Please consider these while you read and in reflecting in your papers.


  • Participants will identify the relevant legal issues that pertain to AAP
  • Participants will identify the relevant ethical issues that pertain to AAP
  • Participants will be able to manage complex ethical issues
  • Participants will be able to balance client welfare with animal welfare
  • Participants will be able to contribute to the discussion on the ethical implications of animals as a therapeutic medium
  • Participants will maintain the practice of AAP as a professional specialty

Course 3: Animal Behavior and Training

The goal of this course is to teach the clinician to understand and utilize their therapy animal(s) behavior (ethology), adaptations, as a means to develop rich therapeutic interventions with clients. Through understanding the differences and functions of animal behavior (including human animals) clinicians can help clients see themselves and the animals within a new therapeutic and post therapy context. Within this context clinicians will learn basic animal training skills that can both help develop the skills of their therapy animal(s), as well as providing an enriching therapy experience for clients who would benefit from training the animals as part of their therapy.


  • Students will understand basic Ethology of their primary therapy animal, as well as some general ethology of other animals
  • Students will understand how, when and why the animal’s behavior and adaptation can be used within the therapy context
  • Students will learn how to provide basic, positive-based training for animals and be able to train clients in this method
  • Students will have some knowledge as to how to train for problem behaviors in their and client’s animals
  • Students will be able to integrate animal ethology and animal learning as a means to develop and implement rich therapeutic interventions

Course 4: AAP and Theory

The application of AAT or AAP is most often thought of within its own context, not within the context of sound theory. Expertise in AAP will require a commitment to developing a clinical style that is well-founded within the context of theory. In this course students will explore how AAP can exist within such a context and be flexible enough to work within several different theoretical approaches. It is the goal of this course to introduce students to the use of a developmental-approach (as used in Parrish-Plass) as well as exploring other approaches of their own choice. It is our goal that through this exploration students will find ways to incorporate animals into their practice that can be effective and also consistent.


  • Students will be able to develop a treatment plan using one specific theoretical orientation
  • Students will understand the relationship between treatment planning, and AAP interventions used within a specific theoretical context
  • Participants will apply specific AAP Interventions within a specified theoretical context
  • Students will choose (at least) one specific client population to study more in depth in order to develop expertise in that area

Course 5: Treatment Planning and Interventions Using AAP

In this course you will be learning to bring your preferred theoretical approach and AAP into your work with clients. You will be going beyond the theories and developing treatment plans that integrate theory and AAP concepts into a cohesive whole. We will be asking you to choose a primary population, or age group to focus on. While we know many of you work with a wide variety of ages, we want you to become the expert in this particular area and then you can broaden outward with experience. You will also choose to explore one particular problem area in depth, ideally one that you already or plan to work with. In addition we will be asking you to design a group and/or family therapy protocol. Within this exploration the student will learn different types of animal-assisted interventions that can then be used in a practical, yet still cohesive treatment plan.


  • Understand the use of medium and projection in psychotherapy and how this can be a useful way to see the relationship of animals in practice
  • Understand the basics of attachment-based therapy and be able to write a treatment plan addressing several goals
  • Develop a treatment plan for your chosen population and issue using animal assisted psychotherapy
  • Be able to develop animal assisted interventions that are theory and goal-specific and can be used with your chosen population and issue
  • Develop a treatment plan that can be evaluated for its efficacy (and will be in Course 6)

Course 6: Documentation and Outcomes: Research Study

Animal Assisted Therapy, and even more so, Animal Assisted Psychotherapy is a very new field. While publications may espouse the benefits of therapies involving the Human-Animal bond, for our field to flourish and gain credibility, we need to be able to demonstrate its effectiveness.

In this course we will explore our own roles in contributing to the field of AAP with sound and effective clinical practice. Each student will either develop or adopt an appropriate efficacy measurement tool that they can utilize in working with their specific population, and their specific animal(s) (or intended population and animals). Each student will have a unique instrument to contribute to the larger body of measurement tools to share with each other through the Course Lounge.

Accurate, detailed documentation may be one of the clinicians’ greatest tools for tracking progress with clients. Students will practice using documentation in this manner, and in concert with their efficacy tools.

Lastly, each student will provide a single-subject designed study that documents and explores a specific client’s progress using your AAP tools.


  • Students will develop or find an appropriate outcome measurement tool to use with their specific client population
  • Students will be able to use accurate and detailed documentation which supports the demonstration of progress with individual clients
  • Students will be able to write a professional level single-subject research paper documenting the progress of a specific client.


We reserve the right to deny enrollment to anyone that does not meet the minimum requirements or for any other reason.

AATPC has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6545. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. AATPC is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. 

CERTIFICATE REFUND POLICY: Your enrollment fees go to support our non-profit counseling center; fees go directly towards scholarships for low-income clients as well as care for our resident animals. Therefore we are unable to provide refunds for the Online Certificate Program.


Barking C.A.A.T. Ranch
(Center for Animal Assisted Therapy)
7275 Kipling Street
Arvada, CO 80005
P 720-266-4444
F 720-266-4444

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