Animal Assisted Therapy
The Human Animal Bond and Animal Assisted Therapy Center for Excellence is located in the School of Nursing and runs in conjunction with Professional and Continuing Education (PACE). Keeping with the main objectives of the Center, the program will become the primary resource for all things related to the Human Animal Bond and Animal Assisted Therapy and will contribute to research and literature within the area of study. A key component to this program is the implementation and advancement of ethical standards and competencies to be used as an industry standard by both professionals and volunteers in the field of HAB and AAT.
Animal assisted therapy offers a positive behavioral support intervention for young people with severe emotional or behavioral problems as well as provides emotional, psychological and physiological support for the critically ill, elderly, physically impaired and more. The difference you will make in the lives of others will be extremely rewarding. Animal assisted therapy has also been effective in nursing homes, counseling centers and hospitals. A diverse range of people can apply animal assisted therapy to their professional careers, including: nurses, teachers, counselors, physical therapists, sociologists, and more. If you are interested in learning the differences between Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities, watch this five-minute video.
Taught by multidisciplinary professionals, Oakland’s animal assisted therapy program helps fulfill the need for alternative, innovative and holistic health care practices. In addition, animal assisted therapy addresses several social issues, such as:
- providing educational, therapeutic and health benefits for at-risk children and adolescents, the elderly and other special-needs populations
- helping patients in nursing homes, counseling centers and hospitals
There are a variety of theories that can be used. This is an article that was presented at the American Counseling Association Conference in New Orleans in 2011 on incorporating theories into practice.
What is the difference between Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities?
Watch this 5 minute presentation to find out
What is AAT certification?
AAT Certificate Program focuses on the differences between Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy and how to setup a program to achieve the outcomes you'd like to see within the population with which you are working. This program is ideal for people in service professions (teachers, nurses, therapists,occupational therapists, etc.) who want to add AAT to their skill set and introduce either their own animals or other animals or people who want to conduct AAT, start a non profit or become a more credible volunteer.
What types of animals can be used in AAT?
Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, hamsters,etc. This program will help you identify what animals/pets would make safe, reliable therapy animals.
The program is offered completely online. It runs in a consecutive format (two modules per semester for 2 1/2 semesters). There are deadlines and weekly due dates for assignments, but you can do them and post at your discretion. Most students say that the work is not overwhelming and many work full time jobs or take full time classes along with this program. We offer a capstone project which includes the writing of a full proposal/business-type plan rather than an internship. At the end, you will receive a professional development certificate from Oakland University.
Is the program accredited?
There is no national accrediting body for AAT, but having a certificate will make you more credible. We want to demonstrate how to incorporate AAT into any service field or type of service organization and you will have the chance to create by the end of the courses a plan specific to your needs that can be presented to a supervisor or potential facility for approval to add AAT to the location of your choice. This program will help establish standards and competencies for your work.
Examples of Goals for AAT:
The goal we want to achieve with each person that enters our program is to help them reach their own goals for their AAT programs.
AAT can assist with these goals and changes:
- Physical Changes ( disabilities, body posture, etc.)
- Cognitive Changes (Learning, etc.)
- Emotional Changes (Feeling, Recognizing, etc.)
- Physiological changes (Heart rate, etc.)
- Behavioral Changes (Altering behaviors)
What to expect when being taught in this program:
- Perspective taking
- Sense of purpose
- And many other ways.
What you'll learn:
Oakland University’s academic approach to animal therapy will help you develop an overall understanding of the human animal bond and healing implications with vulnerable populations. You’ll learn:
- How to incorporate animal assisted therapy in current practices.
- How animal assisted research applies to real-life applications
- What the difference is between animal assisted therapy and pet therapy.
- How to gain a theoretical framework for animal assisted therapy interventions how to start your own non-profit organization
- Where to volunteer.
- We are using this in those simplest of terms- a relationship that provides a sense of safety and reduces anxiety or stress
- None of these are uniquely human (insel, 1997)- Social dynamics between people and pets have qualities similar to that of human social relationships.
The program includes five consecutive 8-week modules in the following areas:
Module 1- Intro to AAT ( First half of Fall Semester)
Includes readings on the literature and the learning on what it takes to get started with AAT.
Module 2- Psychology of AAT (Second half of Fall Semester)
Includes learning theories and behavior modification by applying this to AAT.
Module 3- Special Populations (First half of the Winter Semester)
Includes a closer look at vulnerable populations and how AAT will fit in with the populations.
Module 4- Working with Animals (Second half of Winter Semester)
Includes learning if the animal can work for AAT, how to certify your pet, what a temperament assessment is and the provisions needed for using animals.
Module 5- Capstone (First half of Spring Semester)
Includes writing a final paper on introduction, needs assessment, methodology, Budget/resources, similar programs, and outcomes.
Once you hear back from the committee, you can register at www.oakland.edu/pace.
Courses are $350per course (both in/out of state; in/out of country) x 5 courses plus the costs of books (available on Amazon). Payment of $350 is due prior to the start of each course. Full price for the who program is $1,750.
Since this is considered professional development/continuing education, students do not have to apply to Oakland University to enter the program. Registration begins in July/August through Professional and Continuing Education. Step by step instructions for registration are available.
— John W. Streeter, MA, MAC, NCC, LPC
Hi, Amy – I thought you’d enjoy hearing the latest news about the program we launched here last summer with the Deer’s Head Hospital recreation therapy staff based on my OU AAT program cornerstone project. The summer 2013 pilot program, managed by Shelli Beers of the staff, assisted by a summer intern, Haley Naugle, went very well and was deemed such a success that the clinical director encouraged the RT staff to make it a permanent part of their program, baked into care plans, regularly scheduled, all the bells and whistles.
Then, later in the fall, Susan Lynch, a professor of therapeutic recreation at Longwood University, who had taught Shelli, encouraged Shelli to submit a seminar proposal on our program in response to the call for papers of the Mideast Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation (MESTR) for its annual conference in Ocean City, MD (nearby for us), which took place earlier this week. Our proposal was accepted back in Februay, and we began preparing a 90-minute presentation on our program. (By the way, in the early going, I changed the name of the program to “TRAC” (Therapeutic Recreation Assisted by Canines) form my original “DART,” because people around here, next to the Delaware state line, associate DART with the Delaware public transportation system, which goes by that name! Also, I learned that “therapeutic recreation” is the preferred term among many in this field.)
At some point, as we were awaiting word on whether our seminar proposal would be accepted, I was reviewing the guidelines posted on the MESTR website and noticed that the organization also gives an annual award for “Best New Program of the Year.” I encouraged Shelli to ask their clinical director to nominate TRAC, and that nomination was submitted in time for consideration.
We gave our seminar at MESTR in Ocean City last Sunday afternoon, just after the keynote address. It was one of several “break-out” offerings in that time slot (all for CEU credit, by the way), but our conference room was packed – probably 50-60 attendees. Shelli introduced the program, then Murphy (my older Berner) and I addressed the group for about 40 minutes. Our job was to present how we got into AAA/AAT, how we formed our group, the Wicomico Wagsters, the AAA/AAT distinction, how we moved from AAA to AAT through my work in the OU certificate program, the pilot program proposal and the collaborative work we entered into with the Deer’s Head RT group to test and implement TRAC. Then Haley went into the details of the program. We wrapped up with Murphy assisting in demonstrations and generally entertaining a little, some Q & A, etc. We displayed pages and slideshows from the Wagsters website, also a product of my OU AAT program last year, to expand our presentation to include discussion of other special needs populations that can be effectively served through AAT. Shelli also utilized a very attractive power point program with photos from TRAC sessions and related content.
The attendees submitted evaluations that were overwhelmingly positive, we received many gracious compliments at the end of the seminar, Murphy posed with participants for numerous snapshots, and we had a great time. For the icing on the cake, at the closing ceremony for the conference yesterday, “TRAC at Deer’s Head Hospital” was awarded “Best New Program of the Year.” This is a high honor for Shelli and her team, and, I think, a tribute to you, Amy, and the OU AAT certificate program for providing me with so much knowledge and encouragement last year. I’m attaching a copy of the MESTR 2014 program schedule, listing our TRAC seminar (Sunday, 3:45-5:15), Shelli’s brief outline for our presentation, a set of annotated references based on my paper, which we distributed to attendees, a photo of our “Best New Program” certificate, and an “autographed” Wagsters postcard featuring Murphy and Zeke, which we also gave to attendees. Also, the Wagsters website includes a page on Deer’s Head where you can find a slideshow I prepared on “TRAC” with “action shots” form our sessions. Here’s a direct link to that page: http://wicomicowagsters.org/
This center is dedicated to expanding the knowledge of the powerful bond between humans and animals and how it makes Animal Assisted Therapy possible. The center hosts a cross-professional platform for professionals and educators who will work together to share research, experiences, training and expertise as well as serves as a clearinghouse for exchanging ideas and assisting in streamlining a set of ethics, competencies and standards.
Goals for the Center include:
- Providing a thorough understanding of the theories and intentionality used in the practice of AAT
- Providing a thorough understanding of the various populations that benefit from AAT and the types of animals that make the best fit
- Determine what animals make the best therapy animals and how to certify one’s animal
- Add to the base of literature in order to advance the field
- Expand and deepen learning and related academic initiatives and scholarship at OU
- Disseminate ethical standards and benchmarks in the industry as determined in collaboration with other experts in the field
- To have courses taught by experienced faculty in a variety of disciplines
- Have the ability to offer CEUs in a variety of disciplines
- Encourage interprofessional collaborations on campus, in the community, around the country and around the world
Our advisory committee is comprised of content experts and will help make this mission a reality.