Frequently Asked Questions about the Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate Program
- Who is the certificate program for?
- What are the certificate program components?
- What courses are included in the certificate program?
- Does the program teach a specific method?
- What is the certificate program philosophy?
- How are the courses conducted?
- Why is receiving education, training, and supervision important?
- Can I register for courses if I am not interested in the certificate?
- What is the workload expectation?
- Why is the program 10 months long?
- What are the practical, hands-on components of the program?
- Why is the program part of an academic institution?
- Can I use this certificate regardless of the country I live in?
- How many CEUs do I receive?
- How are my CEUs recorded?
- What is the cost of each course?
- Is there any form of financial assistance available?
- Are there international student fees?
- Is this program fun?
1. Who is the certificate program for?
The Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate Program is specifically designed for mental health professionals who want to include interactions with horses and the equine environment (sometimes referred to as "equine-assisted therapy") as a therapy technique in their psychotherapy/counseling practice. The post-master certificate is also open to graduate students in mental health related master's or doctoral programs.
This 10-month program content provides education, training, and supervision, all needed to practice ethically, competently, and within your scope of practice. Shorter trainings might not fulfill these three areas.
The program is open to those new to incorporating equine interactions in psychotherapy as well as to those who are already doing so and wish to continue their professional development in this area.
2. What are the certificate program components?
There are four main program components:
There are three courses in the certificate program, each between 10 and 12 weeks long. Courses include weekly interaction and assignments, and are delivered through the award-winning learning management system Canvas.
There are three 4-day workshops that take place in Denver, Colorado.
Supervised Client Work
Students complete 50 hours of client work where equine interactions is included during the program at sites feasible to them. Students receive both on-site and faculty supervision/consultation.
Students pursue 50 hours of additional trainings to strengthen their overall professional profile in mental health, equine interactions, and equine science areas. Students determine areas of interest together with program faculty.
3. What courses are included in the certificate program?
There are three courses, each 10-12 weeks long in the program. The certificate program is based on progressive learning in three areas of competency, which appear in each course, and in four program components. See Program Overview and Learning Areas and Outcomes for more information.
4. Does the program teach a specific method?
The certificate program teaches students how to design, facilitate, and incorporate equine interactions as a technique into psychotherapy for the clients they see and that are integrated within the professional therapy approaches and interests they have.
The program does not teach a singular method or model, instead it provides students with tools to meet client needs through a range of techniques and approaches. Students learn to intentionally include equine interactions and the equine environment specific to client treatment goals. This can be compared to the training students receive in mental health graduate programs, which is not focused on a singular method but on assessing and serving clients in a variety of ways, within the scope of practice of the provider. Here the interaction with the horse can be understood as a therapy technique that can be applied within the therapy approaches within which the clinician is trained. The program content meets the competencies set forth by the American Counseling Association for therapy providers who include animals in their practice (animal-assisted therapy). The ACA is the only mental health association so far that has provided comprehensive competencies specific to the inclusion of animal interactions in therapy. In addition, education and supervised client hours count toward eligibility for independent, national certification by the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP).
5. What is the certificate program philosophy?
We believe that there is no singular "right" way to include equine interactions in treatment ("equine-assisted therapy") and, as such, teach students how to provide effective and ethical treatement where horses are incorporated, for various populations and settings. We believe that pracititoners should have a healthcare-aligned conceptualization of the role of the horse in the therapy session and the use of the therapy technique.
We believe in the dually competent practitioner. This is a mental health professional who has knowledge and skill in providing mental health services (psychotherapy and counseling) as well as knowledge and skill related to horses and other equines in order to ethically provide services within their scope of practice. The ACA competencies emphasize that practitioners must have in-depth knowledge of the species and individuals they work with in order to attend to the client-animal relationship and to maintain an apporpriate treatment environment.
While there are many ways to look at the role of the horse in treatment, we believe that knowledge of equine ethology, cognition, behavior, communication, and overall needs helps practitioners create interactions between humans and horses that are ethical and informed, both for clients and horses.
Understanding social justice-related concepts such as power and privilege is foundational to the work of therapists. We center social justice as a framework that is necessary not only for therapist-client interactions, but for human-animal interactions as well. See also our Social Justice Statement
6. How are the courses conducted?
The certificate program is accessible to you regardless of where you live, and can be completed alongside full-time work. Courses are conducted through the award-winning learning management system Canvas. Course assignments, as well as other course components are completed in your own community. There are three 4-day residential workshops that take place in Denver, Colorado. These workshops are spread out during the 10-month program. It is helpful to think of the program as a 10-month unit, as program activities take place throughout the program year.
7. Why is receiving education, training, and supervision important?
The Equine Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate program provides a comprehensive learning experience consisting of education (information provided), training (practical application), and supervision/consultation (guidance to enhance clinical skills and support for ethical practice). These areas are especially important for mental health practitioners as Codes of Ethics from professional associations such as ACA, NASW, AAMFT, and APA, explicitly state that in order to add new speciality areas to a practitioner's scope of practice, the practitioner must have received education, training, and supervision in that area.
8. Can I register for courses if I am not interested in the certificate?
The Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate program is a comprehensive and cohesive professional training with progressive and cohort-based learning. Through building an intentional cohort for the program and the relationships that result from this, we believe that learning is strengthened. Because of this, it is not possible to take individual courses or program components if you are not part of the program cohort. Please contact the EAMH Program coordinator for stand-alone offerings.
9. What is the workload expectation?
The certificate program has weekly assignments as well as short course projects and completion of other program components such as supervised client work.
1-2 hours per week is sufficient for most students to complete weekly assignments. More time may be needed while completing a project or engaging in client work.
It is possible to complete the program alongside full-time work.
10. Why is the program 10 months long?
Education (knowledge of theory, ethics, research, professional field, business practice, legalities, equine considerations, and more), training (hands-on practice and feedback), and supervision/consutlation (50 hours of client work completed within the program) in a new treatment area are each necessary for ethical and effective practice.
The program is completed over the course of 10 months to allow sufficient exploration of this area of work and time to complete requirements regardless of where you live.
Because of its length, the program fully meets the educational requirements for national board certification by the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP), and you can apply supervised client hours gained in the program toward the other areas of eligibility for board certification.
The certificate program is also aligned with the Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies provided by the American Counseling Association.
11. What are the practical, hands-on components of the program?
Students complete practical components both in their own communities (such as short projects and supervised client work) and in residential workshops in Colorado (three 4-day workshops throughout the program).
12. Why is the program part of an academic institution?
University of Denver is an accredited, premier educational institution known for its high-quality academic programs and professional development offerings. By being a post-master's certificate student at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, you become part of a community of professionals in the human-animal interaction area of work.
Receiving your training in how to include equine interactions in psychotherapy through an academic institution helps lend credibility to your work and helps professionalize the area of work overall.
Students in the certificate program also receive benefits such as access to the University of Denver library with the latest research articles in equine interactions and related areas.
13. Can I use this certificate regardless of the country I live in?
The Equine-Assisted Practitioner Certificate Program is designed with international practitioners in mind. It is an excellent way to further your professional development, regardless of the country you live in.
Some countries may have a single governing body that addresses equine or animal-assisted therapy and with which it is mandatory to comply. It is necessary to look at each such country and their requirements if the Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate Program is the only program you plan to complete. Most countries do not have a governing body, or, they have voluntary national certification through which the number of educational hours is specified. Where there is no independent governing body, the code of ethics and professional standards for your mental health profession are what determine whether you are practicing within your scope when including equine interactions in psychotherapy. Typically, education, training, and supervision is necessary to add a new area of competency to your practice.
Receiving a comprehensive post-master's certificate alongside an official transcript from an accredited academic institution indicates professionalism to the public and is a valuable documentation of your training regardless of country.
14. How many CEUs do I receive?
You will receive 52 CEUs (520 hours) in total for the certificate program. University of Denver uses a uniform CEU calculation of 10 clock hours equaling 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU). The program CEUs can be used for professional development needs, including the licensing board of your state and for organizations such as the National Association for Social Workers (NASW), the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). The program CEUs may also satisify continuing education requirements for other certifications you seek (such as the CBEIP).
15. How are my CEUs recorded?
When you have completed the certificate program you will receive an official University of Denver document with your CEUs and your Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate. Since the program extends across a calendar year, you can request to get CEUs for your fall coursework in December.
16. What is the cost of each course?
The complete certificate program fee is $4,800 and includes courses, residential workshops, and supervision. The program fee does not include travel and lodging for residential workshops. There are no additional fees associated with the program.
The certificate program includes components beyond individual courses, and as such, cost is not calculated per course. The total program fee can be split into three payments ($1600 x 3). Further assistance can be made available on a case-by-case basis.
17. Is there any form of financial assistance available?
Students may split the total program fee ($4800) into three payments ($1600 per payment). Further assistance can be made available on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is to make the program financially accessible to practitioners, while providing a comprehensive and high-quality program.
We encourage students to seek financial assistance from groups and foundations who may want to support human-animal interactions and skilled therapy practice.
We do not have general student scholarships available at this time. If you are a current DU MSW graduate student, please see information about the Diane Coker Memorial Scholarship here.
18. Are there international student fees?
There are no additional fees for international students.
19. Is this program fun?
The certificate program is designed to enhance your therapy practice through multiple components and with one-to-one advising throughout. We believe that learning happens most effectively when the content is engaging and relevant to you. In addition, having fun is very important - come join our community of therapists!