Animal Assisted Therapy Degrees and Certificate Programs
Animal assisted therapy is a counseling technique wherein patients play with small animals to improve their mental, social and even physical well being. The practice is not particularly common and there are no degree programs related to the field; however, some schools do offer graduate-level animal assisted therapy certificate programs through their continuing education departments.
Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate
A certificate program in animal assisted therapy is designed to provide students with an introduction to the theories behind human-animal interactions and the 'human-animal bond.' Students examine how incorporating small animals into a counseling regimen can help improve a patients' physical, emotional or mental state. Certificate programs in animal assisted therapy are interdisciplinary and include courses related both to animal welfare and to human psychology. Most certificate programs in the field also include a research project or capstone project.
Most schools offering animal assisted therapy certificate programs require students to hold a baccalaureate degree before they can enroll. Such programs are often offered as a form of continuing education credit for current counselors. Some schools accept a given number of years' worth of work experience in the field as a substitute for a bachelor's degree.
Students enrolled in an animal assisted therapy certificate program study the basics of animal behavior and genetics. They also study the basics of human growth and development, emotional and mental disabilities, human psychology and other behavioral disorders. Some common course topics include:
- Animal behavior
- Psychology of animal assisted therapy
- Working with animals
- Small animal behavior and genetics
- History of animal assisted therapy
- Animal assisted interventions
- Animal welfare basics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Having a thorough educational background in animal assisted therapy can be useful to professionals working in several different careers. Some of these include:
- Animal assisted therapy specialist
- Holistic counselor
- Animal care research associate
- Patient services technician
Some individuals who earn animal assisted therapy certificates can find work as social and human service assistants. Employment opportunities in this field were predicted to grow 28% during the 2010-2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - a much faster-than-average rate. As of 2012, social and human service assistants earned an average of $14.85 per hour, notes the BLS.
Certification and Continuing Education
No single association or organization oversees the certification process for professionals working in the field of animal assisted therapy. Students interested in studying the subject should enroll in a certificate program that is accredited by an organization such as the American Association for Veterinary State Boards or the International Association for Continuing Education and Training. Further resources and continuing education opportunities are made available by the Delta Society, a non-profit organization devoted to therapy animals.
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