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Animal-Assisted Interventions & Interactions Certificate Program

Welcome to the University of North Florida’s online Animal-Assisted Interventions & Interactions Certificate Program! This program is available to individuals wanting to learn the knowledge, skills and values in animal-assisted activities, animal-assisted therapy, animal-assisted education, and entry level animal communication and behavior. This certificate program has been offered since 2007 with more than 250 students from around the world. This provides a strong network of AAI professionals who will share your Certificate as a Human Animal Intervention Specialist credential.


This program is for anyone who is interested in partnering with animals in a professional or volunteer capacity. The goal of this program is to teach individuals how to navigate the AAI literature, identify and access best practices, and gain practical skills for individuals or organizations to propose, evaluate and develop an AAI program in the student’s choice of environments. Additionally, this program seeks to support and contribute to the implementation and advancement of several professional issues required for animal assisted activities, therapy and education. The vision of the program creators is to promote the thoughtful and ethical practice of animal assisted interventions by focusing on practitioner competency, quality client care and optimal animal welfare and well-being.


Upon successful completion of UNF’s Animal Assisted Interactions & Intervention Certificate Program, students may use the credentials CHAIS (Certificate as a Human Animal Interaction Specialist) to demonstrate that they have received education specific to AAIs.

 


 

Course Schedule

Each program cohort begins in September. The program includes six consecutive 6-week courses in the following areas and are co-taught by Melissa Winkle, Amy (Johnson) Binder and well-respected guest lecturers. Each course must be completed in sequential order.

2022 - 2023 Schedule: Synchronous Course Modality

 

Courses Dates
Introduction to AAII September 9 - October 14, 2022
Animal Care Plans October 17 - December 2, 2022
Special Populations December 5, 2022 - January 29, 2023
Session Planning and Outcomes February 1, 2023 - March 12, 2023
Administrative Policies March 15, 2023 - April 23, 2023
Animal-Assisted Intervention Capstone Project April 26, 2023 - June 9, 2023

Competencies in AAI

The lack of a global or national overarching governing body for certification or accreditation of any AAIs has led to confusion, misinterpretation and poor practices that involve AAIs. This course will guide students in the exploration of terminology, standards, ethics, competencies, organization specific accreditations/certifications, best practices, program proposals, evaluations and development. Students will learn to find and evaluate literature that impacts evidence-based practice. This program will guide students through the skills, knowledge and values. To add a specialty to a practice without having the knowledge, skills, and values associated with that specialty can mean that the provider is operating outside their scope of practice. To ensure that providers of AAI remain within their boundaries of competence, this certificate program aligns with the competencies for Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) that were published and endorsed by the American Counseling Association in 2016 and subsequently by Pet Partners and Animal Assisted Interventions International. These competencies were founded on a Grounded Theory study designed to promote the three domains of competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) and identified 9 competency areas (Stewart, L.A., Chang, C. Y., Parker, L. K., & Grubbs, N., 2016).

These areas include:

  1. Formal Animal Assisted Intervention (AAA, AAT and AAE) Training
  2. In-depth animal knowledge
  3. Knowledge of existing ethics
  4. Mastery of professional discipline specific skills as a foundation prior to adding AAIs
  5. Intentionality
  6. Specialized skill set
  7. Animal advocacy
  8. Professional development
  9. Professional values

While no one program or course can offer everything, this workshop seeks to satisfy the need for education in this area that aligns with the competencies.

Learning Outcomes and Practicum

This course will offer entry to intermediate level foundational knowledge via live and recorded lectures from instructors and guest lecturers, reading, reflections, group discussions, and evaluation of the literature. Students will demonstrate competency with completion of assignments, quizzes, interviews of professionals in the field, video evaluation of animal communication and behavior, and a capstone project specific to the students area of interest, population, environment and species.

In-person practicum will be offered as an additional certificate up to twice a year, in the Northeast and Southwest regions of the United States.

Ongoing Continuing Education:
As this certificate program proceeds, we will offer additional continuing education courses in several content areas, which will be open to certificants and the public.

Program Courses

Each program cohort begins in September. The program includes six consecutive 6-week courses in the following areas and are co-taught by Melissa Winkle, Amy (Johnson) Binder and well-respected guest lecturers. Each course must be completed in sequential order.

  • Course 1: Intro to AAI

    Animal Assisted Intervention Foundations

    A historical and theoretical foundation for the inclusion of animals as a treatment alternative or adjunct to traditional practices in healthcare settings. An overview of training and practice competency guidelines, techniques, national registrations, ethics of practice and animal welfare issues impacting the field of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI). This course requires a community-based site visit in the student’s home community to be arranged by the student. This course is suitable for mental health, medical and education professionals, visiting AAI/AAT volunteers, as well as anyone interested in the inclusion of animals in healing. Delivered in an interactive distance learning format, this course is open to English speaking students nationally and internationally.

    • Demonstrate understanding of the component services that make up the field of AAI
    • Engage in meaningful and mutually beneficial human-animal relationships
    • Demonstrate the means to share one’s human-animal relationship with others to facilitate healing
    • Summarize the moral and ethical considerations for engaging animals in the professional healthcare environment
    • Generalize the application of AAI within the participant’s chosen healthcare discipline
    • Demonstrate knowledge of further training, evaluation, registrations and/or certifications necessary to ethically practice AAI in healthcare disciplines
    • Demonstrate integration of research into theoretical practice frameworks

     

    Register 

     


     

    Prerequisites

    None

     


     

    Delivery

    Distance Learning

     


     

    Required Textbook

    Fine, A. (Ed.), (2019). Handbook on animal assisted therapy: Foundations and guidelines for animal-assisted interventions, 5th ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier. ISBN 978-0128153956.
  • Course 2: Animal Action Plan

    Animal Action Plan

    Preparing yourself and your animal to work in a therapeutic setting including concepts associated with selection of animals, identifying signs of stress and enjoyment in dogs, using humane training methods, and more.

  • Course 3: Special Populations

    Special Populations

    Includes a closer look at vulnerable populations and considerations for implementing AAIs 

  • Course 4: Session Planning and Outcomes

    Session Planning and Outcomes

    Treatment planning vs. session planning, having intentionality in practice, identifying outcomes for sessions, applying a theoretical framework, and more.

  • Course 5: Administrative Policies

    Administrative Policies

    Conducting risk assessments and management plans to mitigate risks, insurance for AAI practices, reviewing zoonotic concerns, and more. 

  • Course 6: Capstone

    Capstone

    The Capstone brings it all together. Mentored by your instructors and/or guest lecturers, students have the options of: (1) Developing a final program proposal for your dream AAI program, (2) Conducting/Assisting an instructor supported research project on a program of your choice (3) A reflection paper on your learning experience (4) A comprehensive literature review/bibliography for a research topic suggested by your instructor.

  • Course 7: Hands-on Practicum

    Hands-on Practicum

    Attend an onsite 20 hour (over 2 ½ days) live workshop with your instructors and special guests at the University of North Florida campus in Jacksonville, Florida (just 8 miles from Jacksonville Beach).

Course Delivery Modalities

Individuals have differing needs for course delivery options based on your lives, schedules, responsibilities and preferences. The UNF Animal Assisted Interactions & Interventions Certificate Program is designed with the students' needs in mind. The certificate program has 3 different course delivery options:

Synchronous

(Required attendance with less homework)
The live course offers set class times and real time interactions with faculty and students. Class attendance is required, but synchronous courses allow more work to be completed in class and thus, there is less out of class assignments.

Asynchronous/Hybrid

(Recorded lectures but due dates for assignments)
The delivery allows the freedom to view lectures and work on materials at your own pace, but the course follows a timeline with specific assignment due dates, discussion boards and opportunities for interactions with faculty and peers along a set time schedule for course completion.

Asynchronous/Self-paced

(Available in 2023!)
Need maximum flexibility? Work completely at your own pace with the self-paced option. Each spring semester, the courses from fall will become available and students are able to work through each course in their time frame. When work is completed and graded by the faculty, the next course will be opened for the student to continue their learning at their own pace and in their own time.

Professional Continuing Education Units & Division Of Continuing Education Ceus

The instructors and lecturers in these certificate courses are credentialed with various professional credentialing bodies and the program can offer professional CEUs for the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), National Association for Social Workers (NASW), American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT).

University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education CEUs are also available to participants.

Instructors

The instructors are active healthcare and human service professionals who have been in practice and have included AAIs for 41 combined years. They have been teaching AAIs at the university level since 2002, and AAI certificate programs since 2007. They have chosen UNF to launch their updated curriculum that includes several well-respected guest lecturers.

 


 

Amy (Johnson) Binder

Dr. Amy Binder, EdD, MA, MAT, LPC, CPDT-KA, UW-AAB, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and certified dog trainer. She founded (2005) and directs the non-profit, Teacher’s Pet: Dogs and Kids Learning Together, which pairs at-risk and adjudicated youth with harder-to-adopt shelter dogs for the benefit of both. Additionally, she piloted an apprenticeship program in Detroit bringing homeless youth into a city animal shelter as well as developed an education program for inmate workers at a municipal shelter. Previously, she developed and directed Oakland University’s online Animal Assisted Intervention Certificate Program and directed its Center for Human Animal Interventions for over 14 years. She is the Competencies and Ethics chair of the American Psychological Association Human Animal Interactions Division 17 and a Topics Editor for the journal Veterinary Sciences. She has published several journal articles and book chapters as well as presented internationally on the topic of Human Animal Interactions and Animal Assisted Interventions.

 


 

Melissa Y. Winkle

Melissa Y. Winkle OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA is an occupational therapist and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. She is President of Dogwood Therapy Services, an occupational therapy private practice and dog training facility in New Mexico, USA. Melissa is a founding member and current President of the European based organization, Animal Assisted Intervention International. She has been involved with Oakland University, Center for Human-Animal Interventions since 2014 in several capacities. Melissa is a practitioner, a researcher, a writer and speaks internationally on disability, integrated community-based program development, animal assisted interventions, and service dogs. She has published a series of books titled Professional Applications of Animal Assisted Interventions, available on Amazon.

 


 

Read more about whether your dog would make a suitable co-therapist in this article: Considerations for Selection, Evaluation and Suitability for Animal-Assisted Therapy
Winkle, M., Johnson, A., & Mills, D. (2020). Dog Welfare, Well-Being and Behavior: Considerations for Selection, Evaluation and Suitability for Animal-Assisted Therapy. Animals, 10(11), 2188.