Course Description

*This complete Online Course includes a PDF of the book, Animal Assisted Play Therapy, and the Final Exam. If you have access to the book and want to purchase the Final Exam only, click here.

This program will provide you with the authors’ combined 75 years of experience working with animals as a part of their therapeutic practice. While the focus is on mental health professionals, the approach and methods covered can easily be adapted for use by allied health professionals, such as physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapists as well as those in the educational field such as teachers and school counselors. Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ (AAPT) adds the elements of playfulness, humor, and lightness to the therapeutic process, and can be helpful for clients of all ages. It focuses heavily on relationships: how the relationship between therapist and animal must be developed in positive, mutually respectful ways in which the animals have a voice and choice whenever possible.

20 CE credits/hours, 185 questions

Target Audience

Psychologists | School Psychologists | Marriage & Family Therapists | Mental Health Counselors | Social Workers

Learning Level


Learning Objectives

  • Describe the authors’ backgrounds and history of involving dogs and horses in Animal-Assisted Play Therapy (AAPT).
  • Explain the definition of AAPT.
  • Identify the background, principles and goals of AAPT.
  • Explain why dogs and horses are the most frequently used animals in AAPT.
  • Evaluate the basic elements of the AAPT approach.
  • Explain why relationship is the cornerstone of the AAPT approach.
  • Identify the therapist competencies necessary for successful practice of AAPT.
  • Describe the preparation of the animal for participation in AAPT.
  • Explain the necessity for a strong relationship between the therapist and his/her therapy animal.
  • Identify the practical considerations, both positive and negative, of engaging in AAPT.
  • Identify the foundations of therapeutic play with animals.
  • Describe the types of goals for and applications of AAPT with various mental health concerns.
  • Explain the importance of therapeutic processing in AAPT.
  • Identify the necessary steps to take when transitions and endings occur.
  • Explain the importance of making the animal’s welfare a high priority.
  • Describe the professional issues and ethics involved in the practice of AAPT.
  • List the major research done in the area of AAPT.
  • List the resources available for therapists who wish to become competent in AAPT.


  1. 1
    • Statement of Understanding (downloadable/printable)

  2. 2
    • PDF Book (downloadable/printable)

  3. 3
    • "Animal Assisted Play Therapy" - Final Exam Questions (downloadable/printable)

    • Final Exam

  4. 4
    • Evaluation Questionnaire

About the Presenters

Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC

Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, is a licensed psychologist, registered play therapist-supervisor, and certified dog behavior consultant with 45 years of experience in the mental health, organizational development, and animal behavior fields. She is the president of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center and its Playful Pooch Program in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania USA, and a cofounder of the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy™. She provides professional training in mental health throughout the world as well as direct services to families. She is the author of dozens of articles, chapters, and books (e.g., Child-Centered Play Therapy; Filial Therapy: Strengthening Parent-Child Relationships Through Play; Play Therapy with Kids & Canines; The Human Half of Dog Training, and more), as well as DVDs and online courses. She has received numerous state, national, and international awards for her writing and training, including the Distinguished Contributions to the Science and Profession of Psychology Award (Pennsylvania Psychological Association), and several Maxwell Awards and Special Awards (Dog Writers Association of America). She currently lives with four dogs, three cats, and one husband.

Tracie Faa-Thompson, MA (Soc/Crim), AASW, PGdipNDPT

Tracie Faa-Thompson, MA (Soc/Crim), AASW, PGdipNDPT, is a specialist social worker in the adoption field and a British Association of Play Therapists registered nondirective play therapist with many years of experience. She also teaches social work students and conducts workshops in attachment theory, life story work, and Filial Therapy. Her AAPT program, Turn About Pegasus, serves at-risk youth and families and operates year-round in rural north Northumberland in the UK. The program has been featured by the BBC. She is a cofounder of the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy™. She was the founder, and for over 20 years the Chair, of her local Riding for the Disabled Centre. She has authored numerous articles and chapters on AAPT and Filial Therapy, and is a recipient of the Outstanding Contributions to the Practice and Training of Filial Therapy Award (Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center). She currently lives with five horses, four dogs, and one husband.