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Animal Assisted Therapy Symposium and Expo: March 6-7, 2020 - dog in a white jersey

Registration Is Now Open!

Animal-Assisted THERAPY Symposium & THERAPY ANIMAL EXPO


The University of North Florida and Therapy Animal Coalition are working collaboratively to further the human-animal bond in healthcare. The UNF Symposium will feature nationally-recognized speakers and informational workshops for both professionals and seasoned volunteers interested in Animal-Assisted Therapy.


Therapy Animal Coalition’s Therapy Animal Expo will offer informational workshops for volunteers and organizations interested in starting or currently working in Animal Assisted Intervention and an expo hall of AAI programs and vendors of interest for all.


HUMAN ONLY EVENT: Please leave your pets at home. Only service animals are allowed at this event.


UNF Symposium registrants will have full access to the exhibit hall at the Therapy Animal Expo and professional education workshops. To register for the Therapy Animal Expo only, which does not include access to the professional workshops, visit

Information on our hotel partners is available below.


Full Registration Package Includes

Friday Events
  • Guest Lectures from Dr. Aubrey Fine and The Rev. Elizabeth Teal
  • Dr. Fine’s Book Signing Event and other feature publications*
  • Author Engagements and Symposium Faculty Meet and Greet
  • Welcome Reception with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

*Proceeds benefit UNF Campus-Based Animal Assisted Intervention Program

Saturday Events
  • Full Symposium access with reserved seating
  • Full access to the exhibit hall at the Therapy Animal Expo, hosted by Therapy Animal Coalition
  • Lunch
fluffy black dog with white jersey on

F.P. Elijah “Eli” Taylor, Th.D., CGC-A, WWD
Brooks College of Health
Faculty Scholar with a Collar



Guest Lecture: Environment is Everything

Rev. Elizabeth Teal

The essential intersectionality of our inter-species relationships in our physical, psycho-social and spiritual realms can no longer go unaddressed. We must consciously be aware of and consciously include all lives and all life into our healing models if we are to survive, heal and thrive. This is not a message about the ecosystems of our air, water and land, but a more intimate interspecies look at what it means to be interconnected, in practical terms in our institutions.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Fully define the term ‘environment’ in therapeutic and educational settings.
  • Identify the impacts of depleted versus enriched environments.
  • Learn to evaluate and ethically remediate where deficits in environments occur through partnering with other species.

Our Faithful Companions: Conceptualizing the Value and Health Benefits of the Human Animal Bond

Dr. Aubrey Fine

The roles of animals in the lives of people have been sensationalized over the years. Newspapers, magazines and films are filled with true stories of heart-warming accounts of how animals have impacted our lives. Recently, there has been more attention given to the healing benefits of interactions with various species of animals. Our relationship with these beings lends itself not only to the physical benefit of interacting with a furry or feathered friend as a companion, but also to the emotional and health benefits, too numerous to list. Science is now confirming what many have known for years: surrounding ourselves with these beings is good for our well-being. Within this session attention will be given to defining the key ingredients to the human animal bond, key theories that explain why it occurs as well as clarify the psychological and physiological benefits derived from the bond. Applying the meaning from a modified quote from Roger Caras (past president of ASPCA), the intention of this presentation is to highlight how animals can make our lives whole. A faithful companion animal will cheerfully give many of us unconditional love and a chance to feel wanted. For some this animal will become a friend, even an unsolicited therapist.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Confront popular culture’s romanticizing of the healing power of pets and the positive and negative impacts it has on the field.
  • Identify key scientific theories explaining the benefits of AAT and the counseling theories that are relevant to the practices of AAT.
  • Recognize key components of the human-animal bond that are necessary for therapeutic benefits of the relationship.
  • Integrate the importance of the scientific evidence to support the practice of AAT and the necessity to following AAT research closely.


The State of Animal Assisted Interventions: A New Paradigm Shift for the Future

Dr. Aubrey Fine

The field of human–animal interactions (HAI) and, more specifically, animal assisted interventions (AAI) has greatly evolved over the past half century. Our association with animal companions and health has a long history. Specifically, the field of AAI is becoming a more recognized form of complementary therapy. Both areas of investigation and practice have evolved from mainly misunderstood/sensationalized relationships between humans and animals and have emerged as more legitimate fields of study and service. What was once first thought of as somewhat novel and unusual is now generating more enthusiasm not only by the general public but also by the growing numbers of interdisciplinary scientists and practitioners interested in studying and applying the inherent value of human animal interactions.


The field of animal assisted interventions is quickly approaching a paradigm shift, adjusting its image to incorporate more evidence-based research and aligning its purpose for the new future. This presentation will address the contemporary critical issues that confront the field today. The presentation will include a brief overview of the major milestones that the field has undergone. Attention will be given to highlighting several critical issues including the state of research in the field, suggestions for fostering best clinical practices and explaining why and how they work as well as guidelines for animal welfare. The presentation will conclude with Dr. Fine’s perceptions for the field’s future trajectory, which will include the need for a shift in public policy and acceptance.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Be aware of the critical issues and opportunities facing the field of Animal Assisted Therapy in 2020.
  • Understand the state of research providing the evidence to support AAT practice and the challenges in performing research in this area of practice.
  • Be motivated to apply clinical best practices in AAT and insure adherence to guidelines of human and animal welfare.
  • Develop an understanding of the future trajectory of the field and the role of the counseling professional in the future of AAT.

Integrating Theory to Practice in Canine Assisted Play Therapy™

Dr. Jennifer Main

The use of dogs in the treatment of mental health disorders is rapidly growing in the field of counseling and play therapy. Canine Assisted Play Therapy (CAPT)™ is not a stand-alone form of treatment, but a supplement to the play therapy process. Because this is an innovative treatment approach, it is important for counselors to understand the theory and best practices of using a canine in the play therapy process. Thus, requiring counselors to conduct CAPT™ in an ethical and theoretically-grounded manner that supports the premise of play as well as protecting the welfare of all involved.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Identify at least three benefits of integrating a therapy dog into the play therapy process.
  • Name at least two reasons why theory is important when using a therapy dog in the play therapy process.
  • Describe at least three ways of using a therapy dog in the play therapy process.
  • Explain at least three ways of protecting the welfare of the therapist, client, and canine in order to preserve the therapeutic relationship.

Mini Keynote: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Rev. Elizabeth Teal

We love our companion animals and we believe, with lots of personal evidence, that they love us... but what if love is not all we need? How the words we use in Animal Assisted Interventions can help, harm or heal.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Be aware of the language we use when engaged in AAT.
  • Identify what wording is inclusive of the intersectionalities of individual experiences, cultures and species.
  • Learn languaging that can move all AAT into the most effective outcomes, regardless of modality, location or population.
  • Understand and experience the differences between narration and experiences in all animal assisted interventions.

Addressing Grief and Pet Loss with Veterinary Social Work

Dr. Cristy Cummings

This presentation will introduce the audience to the emerging field of veterinary social work, including an overview of the research and practice of social workers in the four major areas of this field: compassion fatigue, the link between human and animal violence, animal-assisted interventions, and grief and loss. Drawing from practice experience and the existing body of literature, animal-related grief and bereavement will be discussed in further depth, with focus on the diversity of the human experience of this type of loss, practice implications, and veterinary social work approaches.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • Develop an increased understanding of the roles and areas of study in the field of veterinary social work/mental health practice.
  • Articulate ways in which the animal-related grief and bereavement experience maps on to existing knowledge about grief and loss, as well as common areas of divergence.
  • Apply the knowledge and skills discussed regarding the human experience of animal loss to individual work with clients.

Human & Animal Welfare Considerations

Dr. Amber Barnes & Amy Johnson

This presentation will share, with case examples, the hidden implications of bringing therapy animals into clinical settings, including the spread of zoonotic diseases and potential physical injury. Our best intentions of bringing in therapy animals to help patients and clients heal can have dire consequences if the animals are carrying communicable illnesses and parasites. AAI competencies recommend having knowledge of your animal at a species, breed and individual level and that includes knowledge of behavior and zoonoses.

Learning Objectives
    Participants will be able to:
  • List at least six zoonotic threats to humans and animals in the clinical health care setting.
  • Describe at least two personal protective measures that can be implemented in a clinical setting to prevent zoonotic disease transmission.
  • Explain how proper documentation can aid in zoonotic disease outbreak investigations involving therapy animals and clinical settings.
  • Identify at least six signs of stress in therapy animals and methods to alleviate that stress.
  • List the three domains and nine content areas of the competencies endorsed by the ACA.
  • Recognize the appropriate documentation in AAIs including the informed consent, progress notes and treatment plan.


Keynote Speakers

Dr. Aubrey Fine

Rev. Elizabeth Teal


Symposium Faculty

Amber Barnes, MPH, PhD

Cristy Cummings, PhD, LMSW

Amy Johnson, MA, MAT, LPC, CPDT-KA, UW-AAB

Jennifer Main, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S


Symposium Chair

Carlene Taylor, EdD, LMHC-S, ESMHL, RYT-200




Reserve your hotel room now to receive a discounted rate of $119.

Reserve here



Reserve your hotel room now to receive a discounted rate starting at $139.

Reserve here