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Animal Assisted Intervention certificate program offers online cohorts

Fri Jan 8, 2021 at 02:44 PM

In 2007, Oakland University began offering the online course Animal Assisted Therapy. Now, almost 14 years later, the program is still growing, drawing students from more than 20 different countries around the world. According to program director Amy Johnson, the program continues to grow because the student experience is the most important part. The program is continually redesigned to include the latest literature and trends and also includes those who are well-known in the field.

The Animal Assisted Intervention certificate program is designed for those who want to learn more about AAI and integrate it into their work or working with non-profit groups to become a better volunteer. It’s a five-module course that takes one academic year to complete. The workload and pace are based on the students’ time. 

“We get participants from nearly every health and human service area, including education, counselors, veterinarians, even a marine biologist,” said Johnson.

Animal Assisted Intervention is more than just bringing a dog to work, said Johnson. Instead, it’s about integrating a variety of animals, including cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, hamsters and more into educational, therapeutic and clinical scenarios in which they can help the participants make progress. 

Oakland University’s Unique Program

Oakland University’s Animal Assisted Intervention program welcomes a new cohort of students each September. There is an application process for the program. While participants don’t need experience in the area of Animal Assisted Intervention, they need to be able to handle a college-level class. The participants complete six, five-week modules and a hands-on practicum. 

The certificant program is offered completely online and can be completed by participants from around the world. Each week, there are new lectures, which are available synchronously or asynchronously. Many students who participate in the program work full-time jobs or take classes full-time, and are able to handle the work-load of both. 

The certificant program modules include an introduction into animal assisted intervention, animal action plans, working with special populations, session planning and outcomes, administrative policies and a capstone.

“We invite guest speakers who are experts in the field of Animal Assisted Intervention, those who are pioneers in the field,” said Johnson. She said students also participate in reading, writing and quizzes throughout the week. 

Those participating in the certificate program don’t need to have their own therapy animal. They will learn what to look for in an animal for assisted intervention and how to register and prepare the animal. 

Benefits of OU’s AAI program

Oakland University’s Animal Assisted Intervention program offers students a 100 percent online program with the chance to connect with top people in the field, collaborate on competencies and learn from those who have presented all over the world and written top published articles. While the students get so much from those who teach them, Johnson said she enjoys watching the students progress through the program.

“I love to see our students grow. I love when they send information and see how they are applying it in their setting. I also like to watch students have “A-ha!” moments,” said Johnson. 

Not all programs are the same, said Johnson. 

“We encourage students to do their research on the available AAI programs. There is not one program that covers everything. We have aligned with our distinct criteria and prepared students for an ongoing continuing education plan,” said Johnson. 

After completing the program, students receive Oakland University’s Animal Assisted Intervention certificate and can use the Certificate as a Human Animal Intervention Specialist designation (CHAIS).

For more information on Oakland University’s Animal Assisted Intervetion online program, or any of the online continuing education programs available at OU, visit the Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) website.