School of Nursing
Human Health Building, Room 3027
433 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4452
(248) 370-4253
M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m. closed daily 12 p.m.-1 p.m.
Faculty and staff:

Amy Johnson, MAT, MA, LPC, TLS, CPDT-KA
(248) 364-8704

Cindy Sifonis, Ph.D.
Mary Scott, MSN, RN 

CJ Bentley


Animal Assisted Therapy

Center for Human Animal Interventions

Center for Human Animal Interventions 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 Interventions 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 AAI.

GRAD 1 5-5-14ba.jpg

Animal Assisted Interventions

Animal assisted interventions 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 and sociologists. 

A pdf version of the brochure is available. 

Those interested in enrolling should complete an admission application.  Please note, registration for the 2016-2017 academic year is open until September 6, 2016 (first day of class). Registration for 2017-2018 will open in the summer of 2017; applications will be accepted at any time. For questions contact Amy Johnson at

Highlights from the Animal Assisted Interventions Conference
August 11-12, 2016

Thanks to our speaker sponsor



Overview of Oakland's Program
Oakland University’s Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate program addresses several health and social issues, including an increased need for alternative, innovative and holistic practices. 

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
Theories behind AAT:
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. 
100% online:
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)
Applying for this program at Oakland University will benefit you by reaching for your goals and creating new opportunities. 

What to expect when being taught in this program:
  • Empathy
  • Perspective taking
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-efficacy 
  • Attachment
  • Sense of purpose
  • Patience
  • And many other ways.
Understanding the nature and power of the bond allows us to harness it in powerful 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. 
* AAT was created in 2007 for the demand people had for the program. A grant from the president’s office allowed the program to accept students from all over the world. This program is great for anyone who wants to accept AAT into their work with starting non-profit groups or become a better volunteer for some of these groups. This is an easy program completely online based with 5 Modules throughout a one year span. This online course will give you well-rounded training for your future involvement with AAT. The best part is that the workload is manageable and will teach you great skills involving Animal Assisted Therapy. The workload is at your own pace to work with your schedule of time. 


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- Animal Welfare in AAT  (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.

How to Register/Cost
Complete the online  Admission Application

Once you hear back from the committee, you can register at 

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 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. 

Graduate Testimonial
"As a practitioner of Animal Assisted Therapy (mental health therapy dog) for more than 7 years, I have found the AAT Certification Program at Oakland University to be the foundation that is essential for the professional use of this methodology.  The knowledge and skill sets related to the professional utilization of AAT are identified and then the student's development is  guided and measured every step of the way while tailored to the particular needs of each participant."  
—  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:  (Click on the right arrow (>) in the upper left corner of the opening slide to start the slideshow.)  One of the Deer’s Head staffers in the audience took some pictures that I haven’t seen yet, but there may be some good ones for use in a new slideshow on the seminar, which I may being posting soon.

 Best regards,


Center for
Human Animal
Welcome to the Center for Human Animal Interventions. 

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.

Center Advisory Committee Members


CJ BENTLEYCJ Bentley is an animal behavior consultant and Senior Director of Operations for the Michigan Humane Society. She is the past Executive Director and current member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and has been a canine trainer and behavior consultant for over 20 years. At the Michigan Humane Society, CJ has implemented a canine enrichment program and is their TV and radio spokesperson. Currently, CJ participates on the APDT nominations committee and is a regular contributor to MichigAnimals Magazine.  Her past publications include trainer's tips published in Chronicle of the Dog.  She currently shares her home with her 16-year old so; Scott, and 9-year old red Doberman; Tyde who was adopted at 6 year of age from the Michigan Humane Society, and a 2-year old red Doberman; Rogue, who was also adopted from the Michigan Humane Society when he was 7 weeks.


LAURA BRUNEAULaura Bruneau is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education at Adams State University and holds a certificate in Animal Assisted therapy (AAT). Laura and her dog (Moose) are a registered Pet Partners and Reading Education Assistance Dog team, providing service to the community through an elementary school dog reading program (Tales with Moose) and to the university through a wellness program during finals weeks (Paws and Relax). Additionally, Laura regularly teaches AAT in both core and elective courses, and has presented on the topic of AAT at the state, regional, and national level.


Jennifer Cepnick is a Program Assistant for the Animal Assisted Therapy Center for Excellence. She has been with the program since 2013 as part of the initial development team for the Center's implementation. Her responsibilities include ensuring that the implementation process meets the University's requirements while maintaining the integrity of the overall strategic vision for the Center. Jennifer also participates in the Ethics Learning Community on campus.

Jennifer earned her Master's Degree in Public Administration from Oakland University in 2014 and a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy in 2011. As part of her graduate study, Jennifer wrote on the importance of education for vulnerable populations focused primarily on women who are currently incarcerated.  While a graduate student at OU, she was the Treasurer of Pure Michigan Talent Connect; a student run organization that highlights the importance of keeping recent college graduates employed within the state. She was also honored for her academic achievements with her induction into Pi Alpha Alpha for Public Administrators.


Donna Clarke is the co-founder and Director of Heaven’s Gift Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, and animal hospice dedicated to providing rehabilitative care for animals unable to be adopted to the community, due to the ravages of severe abuse and/or neglect. In addition to her more than 20 years working directly with animals, she has also provided a myriad of educational programs and seminars for both the professional and private communities on a wide range of animal welfare and behavioral concerns including the integration, understanding, appropriate training, and proper care of animals in the home, the work space, as well as within the integrated family system.

Ms. Clarke earned her Master’s degree in Counselor Education, with an emphasis in Community Mental Health from McDaniel College. Areas of special study include history and methodology of animals in the therapeutic setting, and integrative applications of various animal assistive therapeutic techniques as adjunctive therapies. She has designed coursework to further the education, capability, and awareness of the use of animal assisted techniques in both the therapeutic and non-therapeutic environments.

Ms. Clarke is also a published author and speaker and has been recognized by a number of organizations regarding her work with animals.


LORI CROSELori Crose has been with Oakland University since 2000 and is currently the Interim Director of Strategic Programs where she has administrative responsibility for educational programs across the University including credit and non-credit certificates, re-licensure training, certification training and retooling programs at and above the post-bachelor level. She is responsible for developing high quality, new and innovative programming that will align with county, state, and federal employment trends and is charged with connecting them with the government and business communities.  Lori has served as Director of OU’s Personal Financial Planning Certificate Program for the last ten years.

Lori earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 2002 from Oakland University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Illinois College in 1981.  She currently is serving as the Central Region Secretary for the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) organization. She recently served as a member of the Oakland County’s Workforce Development Business Roundtable and represented Oakland University Representative on the Oakland County Emerging Sectors Educational Consortium.

TRISHA EAGAN, Certified Human Animal Intervention Specialist (CHAIS)

TRISH_EAGANEven before she went to kindergarten, Patricia (Trish) Eagan had begun her life-long learning journey with animals. Fueled from her heart and soul, nurtured by strong mentors, and supported by her family and friends, Trish’s work with animals grew from rescuing animals in need, to working as a veterinary assistant, becoming a nationally certified Western Equestrian coach, to her most recent passion: working with animals to help and support humans.

In her current professional role as Director of the Student Health Centre at the University of New Brunswick, Trish recently embarked on an exciting, new path of learning about mental health and wellness.  She became a certified facilitator of the Changing Minds program with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and quickly recognized the powerful potential of merging the Human Animal Bond (HAB) field with preventative health outreach programming on a university campus.  In earning Certification as a Human Animal Intervention Specialist (CHAIS) through Oakland University, Trish gained clarity about how to effectively implement Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) while keeping animal advocacy at the forefront.  The university community setting has become the perfect melting pot for this work, enabling thousands of students to benefit from carefully planned and supported opportunities to interact with dogs and human volunteers.

Trish and her canine partner, Rosi, hold Therapy Dog certification status with both River Valley Obedience and Field Trail Club and Saint John Ambulance hospital visitation programs.  So far, they have logged over 80 hours of solo and team visiting, interaction with more than 1750 clients. And this is just the beginning…



AUBREY FINEDr. Aubrey Fine received his graduate degree in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati in 1982.  Dr. Fine is has been on the faculty of California State Polytechnic University since 1981, where is currently a professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies. He is also a licensed psychologist who opened his practice in Southern California in 1987, specializing in treating children with ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and parent/child relations. 

He has been recognized by various organizations for his work with children, animals, and the community, including the Wang Family Excellence Award for Distinguished Professor in California State University System, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, and the 2006 Cal Poly Faculty Award for Community Engagement. 

Along with many distinguished publications, Dr. Fine has published several books in the field of animal therapy, children and sports psychology. Perhaps his best known works are: The Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice, Afternoons with Puppy: Inspirations from a Therapist and his Animals. Now a noted advocate for Animal Assisted Therapy, Dr. Fine has studied this field for over three decades with children as well as the elderly, and strongly integrates AAT into his research and applied practice.


Colleen PelarColleen Pelar believes that good communication is at the heart of healthy relationships. Since 1991 when she began training dogs, she has been dedicated to helping people better understand the dogs they love. Her three books – Living with Kids and Dogs...Without Losing Your Mind, Kids and Dogs: A Professional's Guide to Helping Families, and Puppy Training for Kids – all emphasize compassion, commitment, and communication. Colleen is the training manager of All About Dogs in northern Virginia and has earned the Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) titles.


LESLIEDr. Leslie Stewart, a licensed professional counselor, is an assistant professor of counseling at Idaho State University. She completed her PhD in Counselor Education and Practice with a cognate in experiential and creative approaches to counseling and supervision at Georgia State University in 2014. Leslie has over 20 years of experience riding, training, and showing horses in equitation, showjumping, and dressage. In addition to facilitating therapeutic horsemanship as a former Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH, Intl.) instructor, Leslie has incorporated animal assisted therapy with a dog and a rabbit in mental health in college counseling and juvenile detention settings, as well as in clinical supervision. Leslie has experience designing and implementing AAT counseling programs in college counseling centers, and has served as a professional consultant regarding AAT to private psychotherapy practices in her area. Leslie’s primary research agenda includes animal assisted therapy in counseling and supervision, currently resulting in more than six refereed publications and eleven professional presentations on the topic.


Melissa WinkleMelissa Y. Winkle is an occupational therapist in private practice, at Dogwood Therapy Services and an assistance dog trainer for Assistance Dogs of the West in New Mexico. She is President of Animal Assisted Intervention International and Animal Humane New Mexico- Warm Hearts Network.  She is a researcher, a writer, a practitioner, and speaks internationally on disability, integrated & community based program development, animal assisted interventions, and assistance dogs.


Teaching &

Human Animal Interventions: Education and Research

Learning Community
Call for Participation

Open to all Oakland University’s faculty, staff and graduate students

A Human Animal Interventions (HAI) Learning Community will be dedicated to expanding the knowledge of the powerful bond between humans and animals and how it makes Animal Assisted Interventions possible. The HAI Learning Community is a cross-disciplinary platform for educators working together to share research, scholarship, and curriculum methodologies. While the field of Human Animal Bond (HAB) is growing, there is still much needed research to be done.

Learning about the human animal bond allows students to gain a better understanding of human behavior which is helpful in personal relationships and working with patients and clients. It also fosters empathy; when you understand other cultures or other species, humans are more likely to embrace the other than fear or judge them. Regardless whether they are in nursing, education, counseling or social work working with veterans, children, the elderly, the chronically ill or mentally impaired, this modality can be effective and has shown significant success.

The HAI Education and Research Learning Community will meet once a month, starting in the fall semester with the dates and times to be determined after our initial introductory meeting. If you are interested in joining this community, please fill out the application on the CETL website. Once you have filled out the interest form, you will be contacted via email with further information and details.

Learning Objectives

  1. To advance empirical knowledge about the human animal bond and animal assisted interventions
  2. Emphasizing the distinction between Animal Assisted Therapy, Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Education
  3. Facilitating collaboration for cross-disciplinary curriculum development
CE Courses

Staying current on trends, techniques and research is critical in ensuring optimal welfare of the practitioner, animal and client. These short, online courses will provide the necessary information to practitioners or those considering entering the field of Animal Assisted Interventions.

Media and


Click to read the latest blog from the Center for Human Animal Interventions

Bibliography of articles and books from our Advisory Committee

Amy Johnson interview on Bloomfield Cable

UPCEA Award for Professional Continuing Educator Award (2015) 

UPCEA Award - Adelle F. Robertson Continuing Professional Educator Award (2016) 

Animal Welfare in Animal Assisted Therapy Lecture (Oakland Post) 

Human Animal Interventions Bulletin (APA) 2016

VISTAS (American Counseling Association) 2016