Purpose of Certificate
Mental health and education professionals receive thorough education about working with human clients; volunteers sometimes receive a brief orientation to the client population with whom they will work. In order to practice ethically and humanely, however, both professionals and volunteers who integrate canines into their practice also need equivalent information about their canine partners and experiential practice with canines. The intent of this certificate is to expose participants to a foundation of knowledge and experience necessary to develop the competencies required to adequately assure a therapy dog’s welfare and well-being. It is important to acknowledge that a months-long certificate is only the beginning of a practitioner’s education and experience with canines.
The program begins with an experiential laboratory one weekend in Denver. The focus of this laboratory is to begin or refine observation skills with canines and humans. Learners’ preferences and biases (both positive and negative) about canines are challenged and explored for their application to client/student work. This laboratory provides supervised hands-on skill-building and immediate supportive and instructive feedback.
Three courses are delivered through Canvas, an award-winning learning platform supported by extensive tech support. Coursework includes readings, watching lecture presentations, taking quizzes, participating in on-line discussions, and documenting fieldwork with multiple canines. Learners finalize their endorsement online by presenting their final three-part project to the cohort. The group provides peer review of each project.
Learners are required to have an official arrangement with a local shelter organization or canine club allowing them to work weekly with multiple canines. Fieldwork provides learners with practical and realistic live work with canines of varying ages, types, and abilities. To satisfy experiential requirements and demonstrate competencies, learners work with multiple dogs for several months. Fieldwork includes observation, training, interviews, taking video of oneself working with dogs, and written documentation of work.
The CAIS endorsement emphasizes practitioner competence and reflects the American Counseling Association’s “Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies.” CAIS organizes competence into three areas: ethics, knowledge, and skill.
Ethical practice of animal-assisted interventions requires consideration of the implications of the choices made moment-by-moment in animal-assisted interventions. CAIS focuses on choices related to canine welfare, sources of canines, duration of canine work, training methods, retirement, advocacy for canines, and more.
Adequate knowledge to provide animal-assisted interventions includes knowledge of and on-going education about canines in addition to knowledge about human clients. AAI practitioners have already received training about their human clients through their degree(s) and/or certificate(s). CAIS emphasizes knowledge areas related to canines, including the theoretical foundation of canine learning, meanings of canine behavior, understanding various training methods, training plan development, canine health and wellness needs, and more.
Delivering animal-assisted interventions in an ethical and sustainable way requires skill with canines in addition to skill with human clients or students. CAIS focuses on skills with canines, including training plan implementation, ability to match training methods with canines, demonstration of two of the four quadrants of training in practice, accurate interpretation of canine behavior, and more.
CAIS Lead Instructor
Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW
Executive Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
Clinical Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
Philip Tedeschi is an Animal-Assisted Social Work and Experiential Therapy Specialist and co-founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). Tedeschi is the Executive Director of IHAC and coordinates GSSWs Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate program for Master of Social Work (MSW) students, as well as the Animals and Human Health online professional development certificate program. He also teaches MSW courses in forensic social work and experiential therapy approaches, with emphasis on conservation and environmental social work in areas such as East Africa and the inclusion of animals in therapeutic settings. A certified Master Therapeutic Riding Instructor, former course director and instructor with Outward Bound, wilderness medical technician, he has many years of experience in non-traditional therapeutic approaches with children, adults and families, as well as in interpersonal violence including, assessment and intervention with animal abuse, attachment, trauma disordered and sexually abusive youth and adults. His latest book with Molly Jenkins, Transforming Trauma: Resilience and Healing Through Our Connections with Animals, is a text for many animal-assisted programs.