We often receive enquiries regarding how one can train or become qualified as an “Animal-Assisted Therapist”. In the UK there are no National Occupational Standards and no regulated qualifications for animal-assisted therapy or practitioners. Any training provider or course that implies otherwise is mis-representative in the field.
This is largely because there is no specific occupation as an animal-assisted therapist.
Animal-assisted therapies are interventions that are used by trained and qualified professionals in various aspects of health and social care and in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary team, which might include a person’s therapist (for example a trained counselor, psychotherapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, etc.), an animal handler, support workers and volunteers. In order to get involved in animal-assisted therapy activities you would normally train and qualify in one of those professional disciplines.
There are however, CPD courses, training, higher education modules and foundation degrees that focus on animal-assisted therapy as part of their content that can lead on to broader degrees or add to prior learning. These do not qualify you as an animal assisted therapist or practitioner but can certainly help towards your understanding of the field and the sort of animal-related activities that can be used as therapeutic interventions. As would the courses and training that we offer from SCAS.
Understanding qualifications, regulation, accreditation, endorsement, etc can be complex. We found this website to give some useful guidance, although we are not aware of how often it will be updated and there are some big changes happening in the world of qualifications and education: http://www.accreditedqualifications.org.uk/
There are animal-assisted activities that one can get involved in as a volunteer without any formal training or qualifications. For example visiting programmes such as Pets as Therapy, Caring Canines, Therapet, etc and through organisations such as Riding for the Disabled.
If you are interested in being a recipient of animal-assisted therapies as a patient, please consult your therapist, physician, or health care professional before embarking on any activities. The use of animals as a therapeutic intervention is not suited to everyone and your suitability for any activities should be determined by by a health care professional and/or multi-disciplinary team. Anyone that calls themselves an animal-assisted therapist or practitioner should be questioned further to ascertain their specific areas of expertise within the framework described above.
SCAS is introducing an Animal-Assisted Interventions Approved Provider Programme later this year to expand upon the publication of the AAI Code of Practice (UK). This programme is designed to help both the public and processionals to determine the quality and credibility of those offering animal-assisted interventions and therapeutic activities in their practice.