Animal Assisted Therapy for Healthcare Professionals

Advance your therapeutic practice through Animal Assisted Therapy.

This course will enable healthcare professionals to upskill in a growing area, providing additional therapeutic services to benefit their clients.

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Location Online
Date/s 4 October to 15 December 2021
Duration 25-hour course (15 hours of online seminars with 10 hours of self-study)
Registrations close 11:59 pm Sunday 26 September, 2021
Prerequisites/s There are no prerequisites for this course.
Certification Certificate of Attendance for 25 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Fee/s $2000.00 + GST

This course is designed for qualified and soon-to-qualify healthcare professionals who are interested in incorporating animals into their practice. It covers the theoretical basis for working with animals in therapeutic settings, existing organisational requirements to set up an animal-assisted therapy program, and ways in which horses, dogs, and other animals may help practitioners provide therapeutic benefit for clients, while maintaining animal welfare and human health and safety. Supporting specific populations through animal-assisted therapy will also be covered. Students will learn from experts about how to appropriately introduce animals into their own practice.

Course content

Topics covered will include:

  • The theoretical basis for working with animals in therapeutic settings
  • The existing organisational requirements for successfully integrating animals into healthcare practice
  • Ways in which horses, dogs, and other animals can help practitioners provide therapeutic benefit for clients
  • Supporting specific populations (i.e., mobility impairments, mental health conditions, developmental disorders)
  • Maintaining animal welfare and human health and safety.

Weekly content structure

Download [PDF 88KB]

Upon completion of the short course, students will gain an understanding of:

  • The theoretical basis for working with animals in therapeutic settings
  • The organisational requirements for successfully integrating animals into healthcare practice
  • How to maintain animal welfare and human health and safety
  • Ways in which horses, dogs, and other animals can assist practitioners to provide therapeutic benefit for clients
  • How animal-assisted therapy can benefit specific populations

Course Coordinator Bios

Pauleen Bennett

Pauleen is Head of Department of Psychology and Counselling at La Trobe University. She is Australia’s leading expert in Anthrozoology, past-President and Fellow of the International Society for Anthrozoology, and Associate Editor of the field’s leading journal, Anthrozöos. Since 2011, she has led a multidisciplinary research group focusing on human-companion dog relationships, and particularly on how these impact human health and dog welfare.

Tiffani Howell

Tiffani is a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology and Public Health. She has extensive experience in research on animal welfare, dog-owner relationships, and assistance dogs, including surveys, focus groups, and behavioural studies. She is currently co-leading a trial, funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to understand the effectiveness of assistance dogs as an adjunct to treatment for veterans with PTSD.

Vanessa Rohlf

Vanessa is a Research Officer in the School of Psychology and Public Health, and is a consultant, therapist, and educator specialising in compassion fatigue, stress management, pet loss, and animal bereavement.

Guest Lecturer Bios

Colin Emonson

Colin a 40-year veteran of youth, family and community work in service provision, case work, counselling, management, and program development. He has been developing and operating the Horses For Hope method for 17 years. Horses for Hope combines his experience, commitment to improve services and service options for children, youth and families and Narrative Therapy practice skills, with his love of horses and natural Horsemanship methods of horse education and training.

He has an interest in expanding research in the field of Equine Assisted Therapies and continues to pursue research and evaluation of the Horses For Hope, Equine Assisted Narrative Therapy program.

Colin holds tertiary qualifications in Youth Work, Narrative Therapy and Welfare Administration.

Anne Hamilton-Bruce

Associate Professor Anne Hamilton-Bruce is a Principal Medical Scientist and researcher at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH) in Adelaide, with an interest in clinical models of care and interdisciplinary research, and experience in introducing and integrating dog visiting in clinical settings. She is Chief Investigator of current Action Research: Dogs Offering Support after Stroke (DOgSS) at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  At TQEH she previously led and project-managed 'Homestroke' (early supported discharge for stroke patients), and from evaluation emphasising the importance of pets for patients, the introduction of Own Pet Dog Visiting (including management-requested surveying) and Delta Therapy Dogs.

Susan Hazel

Susan Hazel is a veterinarian and Senior Lecturer in the School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide. Susan teaches animal behaviour, welfare and ethics and is Program Coordinator for the BSc (Animal Behaviour). Susan’s research interests include the human-animal bond, welfare and behaviour of companion animals and animal management. She has over 65 scientific publications and has supervised more than 30 Hons and 10 PhD students.

Jess Hill

Dr Jess Hill has eight years clinical experience working as an animal-assisted occupational therapist. She is currently an Associate Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at The University of Queensland (UQ). Jess completed her PhD, exploring the impact of canine-assisted occupational therapy on the motivation and engagement of autistic children. Jess is the Deputy Director of the Animal-Assisted Intervention Alliance at The University of Queensland, and the Chair of the Animal Therapies Ltd. Queensland Committee. Jess has ten publications on the topic of animal-assisted therapy, including industry standards, journal articles, and book chapters.

Melanie Jones

Melanie G Jones is a psychologist, animal-assisted therapist (AAT) and the director of Lead the Way , where she provides psychological and animal-assisted therapies to clients across the lifespan. She is also a senior canine behavioural trainer, with extensive experience in therapy- and therapeutic-dog training and certification. Since 2002 Melanie has studied, worked, and taught in the field of animal-assisted interactions (AAI).  Melanie is also actively involved in research and development of AAI and AAT. For a list of Melanie’s published work, please see her Linked In profile..

Sonya McDowell

Sonya McDowall is a concurrent PhD and MBA candidate with an interest in animal assisted therapies. In particular: dogs, veterinary business, and animal welfare. Sonya brings extensive experience in human health, combined with her research in animal welfare provides a well-rounded and unique scope to this industry. Sonya is a Veterinary Technologist, manages two veterinary clinics and provides academic support to both the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Bachelor Veterinary Technology programs at the University of Adelaide.

Committee Member of Australian Veterinary Association (SA Branch)

Member of Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD)

Sarah Munn

Sarah Munn has been working in healthcare since 1989, initially working with adults and children with mental health, developmental and learning disabilities and this led to her training as an occupational therapist. She qualified in 1996, with a BHSc (Hons). Sarah was an OT acute and outpatients service manager and paediatric OT at Peninsula Health when her first child was born with Trisomy 21 (down syndrome) in 2009 at the age of 40. Her second child was born a year later and was later diagnosed with Anxiety, ASD, ODD and ADHD. Sarah established her private practice Barefoot Therapists in 2012 when the boys were little as a very part time sole practitioner. This was developed into a Child and Family Team which provides OT, speech pathology and psychology focusing on outdoor and community interventions. Barefoot Therapists also run Rural programs, Animal and Equine Assisted Therapy from their farm in Mornington Peninsula.

Sue Spence

Sue Spence is a public speaker, workshop facilitator, businesswoman, author (Horses Who Heal published by Pan MacMillan), and educator who holds a Diploma in Child Youth & Family intervention and teaches communication skills to corporate groups, underprivileged youth, and their families utilising the principles of natural horsemanship. Her program, Horses Helping Humans, is a certified and trademarked equine-assisted learning training program with facilitators running HHH across Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, allowing others to help and assist even more people in need through Sue`s teachings. Sue is a 2014 and 2016 Gold Coast Businesswoman of the Year Award winner for Community Dedication award and Creating Change award for the success of her Horse Whispering Youth Program charity. And also 2018 Youth and Children’s services award and Special Partnership award for long term partnership with Griffith Universities Internship program. Her Majesty the Queen has also commented on the “Remarkable and Fascinating work Sue Spence does with horses after she was sent Horses Who Heal as a gift.

Extra requirements

  1. Broadband internet access and an active email address that can be accessed at home during study periods.
  2. Students must have basic computer literacy skills (e.g. Word or other word processing software).

Further information


T: 1300 135 045


This program is subject to minimum enrolment numbers. A refund will be provided if the program is cancelled.