Level 1
Animal-Assisted Play Therapy: Theory, Research, & Practice


Risë VanFleet, Ph.D., RPT-S, CDBC
Tracie Faa-Thompson, MA, AASW, PGdipNDPT

2017 Dates and Locations

  • March 14-17 - Garland, Texas USA
  • May 2-5  - Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania USA
  • September 18-21 - Lowick, Northumberland, UK

Lodging and travel information will be provided with email confirmations.



These workshop typically sell out many months in advance.

Why THIS workshop?
Because of our unique focus on therapist-animal relationships & animal well-being, use of humor and play to enhance top-notch therapy, and lots of hands-on skill-building experiences!! Plus, it is the first big step toward full certification.


The dog was created specially for children.  He is the god of frolic.
  --Henry Ward Beecher

Who Should Attend
This training is designed for mental health and allied health professionals who wish to learn about the exciting field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Properly selected and prepared animals are incorporated into therapy sessions, while the power of play is harnessed to create a safe environment for therapeutic change. The 2 online courses and the 4-day in-person hands-on  workshop that comprise this course provide an overview of human-animal interaction, animal assisted therapy, research, and the full integration of animal-assisted therapy with play therapy. The program emphasizes a relationship-based approach. The course focuses on dogs, with special experiential segments with horses. The manner of working is relevant to a number of species.

Participants in this training program will learn

  • definitions in the AAI field, including for AAPT
  • the guiding principles for the practice of AAPT
  • the five major goal areas that are typically addressed with AAPT for clients of all ages
  • how to access information about the selection of dogs
  • details of observing and understanding animal body language, especially dogs and horses
  • the importance of using humane, animal-friendly methods of training
  • the critical importance of, and how, to build healthy relationships with therapy animals
  • the role of play in therapy with clients of all ages and with a variety of problems
  • how to build play and playfulness into the interactions between clients and animals
  • a sound, research-based approach to animal involvement in play therapy and other forms of psychotherapy/counseling/intervention
  • how to provide effective treatment while reducing risks
  • to apply AAPT in a variety of settings and formats, including individual, group, and family

Emphasis is on the use of client-animal play interactions for therapeutic benefit. Many specific AAPT interventions are covered, including nondirective and directive play therapy, as well as AAPT approaches with varying degrees of structure. Participants learn how to conduct therapy in a manner that enhances the achievement of goals while ensuring the well-being of the animals involved. Considerable attention is paid to the facilitation and processing of therapeutic material within AAPT for a full range of client ages and problem areas.

The workshop is very hands-on. The online courses provide background that is then applied in a practical manner during the live training. Video and live demonstrations as well as experiential portions are followed by skills-practice components with encouraging feedback from the training leaders. It is expected that participants will develop competence and confidence during the workshop and will be ready to implement AAPT with an appropriate animal partner at the end of the training. Supervision for further skill development is encouraged.

The workshop gives participants a chance to explore this exciting field and learn how to develop, implement, and research their own programs. Ideas for working collaboratively with therapy dog handlers and trainers, as well as with equine specialists, are included. The workshop is limited to 10-14 participants, depending on location.

This training is for people only. Dogs and horses will be present and available for demonstration and practice segments. The Level 2 training provides opportunities to work with one's own dog.

In general, participants should have prior experience conducting play therapy, including familiarity with both nondirective (child-centered) and directive play therapy approaches. They should be familiar with basic behaviorism and learning theory, and appreciate the importance of the family system. They should be comfortable around dogs. If you have questions about the prerequisites, please contact Dr. VanFleet. Those without a play therapy background, or canine/equine professionals interested in attending will be asked to read an additional book, and Dr. VanFleet can discuss your unique background and what is needed with you.

2 Prerequisite Online Courses are included in the registration fee and must be completed prior to the in-person training. Each of the online courses is eligible for 10 additional continuing education (CE) credits. The courses are Introduction to AAPT and Canine Communication for AAPT. The powerpoints, written articles, and video links are all included in the overall registration fee. Two books and a CD serve as additional "texts" for the online courses and are available for purchase separately at low or discounted cost. Information about accessing the online courses is sent to you after you register, and more information is available via www.risevanfleet.com.

Special Needs
We are committed to making workshops accessible to everyone. Please contact us if you have special needs as early in the process as possible. Training is generally held in a country environment with contact with dogs, horses, and other animals.

The training runs daily from 9:00 am to 5:45 pm, with a slightly earlier dismissal on the last day. There are 28 actual training hours, and the online courses have 10 clock hours each, for a total of 48 CE credits/clock hours for the entire program.

Continuing Education
The Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  The FEAPT Center maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.  The Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (5732) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements.  The FEAPT Center solely is responsible for all aspects of the program. It is also an Association for Play Therapy (APT) Approved Provider 95-014.  This program has been approved by a number of state social work boards (please contact us for this info).  48 total continuing education credits/clock hours will be awarded to participants who attend the entire training (10 each for the online courses and 28 for the live training).  Partial credit cannot be given.  No exceptions can be made to this policy.  Please contact us re. various canine and equine credits, which are likely to be offered.

The training will involve work with dogs and horses in a rural environment, including outdoors.  Please dress comfortably with this in mind.  Rain gear and footwear for muddy areas are also advised. Closed-toed shoes are mandatory for the equine segments.

Fees & Cancellation - Discounted Package
Package includes registration fees for 2 online courses and the 4-day live AAPT Level 1 workshop (48 CE credits total). 2 textbooks and a CD for the online courses are separate. Fees for Edmonton are different and listed in green. All other locations are in black. All amounts are listed in U.S. dollars. Currency conversions are made automatically when you register.

Early Bird Fee:  $ 935   (fully paid 4 months prior)            (Edmonton early bird:   $1065 USD)
Regular Fee:     $1060  (paid w/in 4 mos. of wkshp start)  (Edmonton regular fee: $1200 USD)

Cancellation Policy:
$275 of the registration fee is nonrefundable. Registrations are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.  Fees include 4 days of training, handout book, 2 online courses, morning and afternoon snacks and beverages. Lunches/dinners are on your own.

$275 is nonrefundable.  Written cancellations received 4 months prior to the start of the workshop will receive a full refund of the balance of the fees.  Cancellations after the 4-month point  will forfeit a total of $385, with the remainder being refunded.

We regret that NO refunds can be given in the final month preceding the workshop. When someone from the waiting list can substitute, credit toward future trainings may be given.  We urge you to consider purchasing travel or other insurance to protect against unforeseen circumstances.

In the very unlikely event that the workshop must be cancelled or postponed by the organizers, the International Institute for AAPT and its assigns will provide a full refund of the registration fees. Participants will be responsible for their own travel fees, another reason to consider purchasing travel insurance. To date, a workshop has never been cancelled.


Presenters - Over 50 years of combined experience in AAPT!

Risë VanFleet, Ph.D., RPT-S, CDBC
Dr. VanFleet is a Licensed Psychologist, Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, Certified Filial Therapist/Supervisor/Instructor, and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with 45 years of clinical and leadership experience in a variety of settings.  She is the president of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center, Inc. in Boiling Springs, PA, director of its Playful Pooch Program, and co-founder of the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy.  She is a Past President/Board Chair of the Association for Play Therapy.  She has authored dozens of  books and chapters on play therapy, Filial Therapy, and Animal-Assisted Play Therapy, and is featured on DVDs and video-based online courses.  Risë has trained thousands worldwide, and she has received 12 prestigious awards for her training, writing, and leadership.  Dr. VanFleet is the author of the groundbreaking and award-winning book, Play Therapy with Kids & Canines, and currently working on another two books related to AAPT.   She is an Approved Evaluator with the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizenâ Program, a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers , the Dog Writers Association of America, and others. She also works with traumatized and unsocialized dogs. She has multiple animal companions, including dogs and cats, and involves several of them in her work.  She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.  She has played a leading role in developing the field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy, and has delivered seminars and skill-building workshops in this field. She is highly regarded as a teacher and clinician, and many people rate her workshops as the best they have ever experienced. Her dogs participate in the Pennsylvania workshops, and their work is shown via video in other locations.


Tracie Faa-Thompson, MA, AASW, PGdipNDPT
Tracie Faa-thompson co-presents this workshop, in-person in some locations or via Skype and video of her work in others.  She is a specialist social worker in the adoption field and a British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT)-registered Non-Directive Play Therapist with many years of experience. She uses a mix of individual play therapy, Filial Therapy, and group Filial Therapy methods in her work.  Tracie is also a practice teacher of social work students and a trainer in attachment theory and life story work. As a clinical hypnotherapist, Tracie incorporates Eye Movement Integration with Emotional Freedom Technique as an effective approach to trauma. Tracie's  AAPT program, Turn About Pegasus, serves at-risk youth and families, and operates year-round in rural north Northumberland in the UK, and was recently featured by the BBC.  Her first career was working with young horses, and she was often their first rider. She uses a Relationship and Partnership approach to working with horses, Tracie is a member of the Classical Riding Club, EAGALA (approved as both mental health and equine specialist), and Natural Horse People. She is the founder, and for over 20 years the Chair, of her local Riding for the Disabled Centre. She is a cofounder of the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Tracie has a lifetime of experience of living and working with dogs and horses, and 30 years of working with vulnerable children and families. She currently has multiple dogs and horses.  Tracie will share ways of incorporating horses into play therapy & psychotherapy, even if you don't have horses of your own.  She has coauthored articles and chapters on AAPT and is currently coauthoring two books on AAPT. Participants in her workshops have always rated her extremely highly and have enjoyed her insights, playfulness, and sense of humor.

The workshop organization and the presenters have no conflicts of interest in offering this program, nor is there any commercial support.


Registration: Level 1 AAPT Workshop
Register early as this workshop often sells out quickly!

To register securely online:
visit our online store

If you wish to pay by U.S. check,  please download the brochure, complete the form, and submit it with a U.S. check only, payable to "Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center, Inc." to the following address:

International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy
Attn: Dr. Risë VanFleet
PO Box 613, Boiling Springs, PA 17007

Questions? Please contact Dr. VanFleet at the address above, or at 717-249-4707 (USA), rise@risevanfleet.com or rise@risevanfleet.com.


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