How to become an animal therapist

Have you ever wondered how to become an animal therapist?  If yes, this blog post is for you.

An animal therapist is a professional who uses animals to help people with physical, emotional, and mental health issues. They work with various animals, including dogs, cats, and horses.

They may work in hospitals, schools, clinics, and other settings. Their goal is to help people improve their quality of life by using animals and may work with people of all ages, from children to seniors. Animal therapists may also work with individuals or groups.

Benefits and uses of animal therapy

Animal-assisted therapy can benefit people’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Some of the potential benefits include:

Improved physical health

Animals can help people increase their physical activity, reduce stress, and promote a sense of well-being. It helps handle health cases such as epilepsy, heart failure, pain from cancer, and post-operative recovery.

Improved emotional health

Animals can provide companionship, reduce loneliness, and promote a sense of happiness and calm.

Improved mental health

Animals can help people reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They also aid cases such as dementia, autism spectrum, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.

Improved social skills

Animals can help people comprehend how to interact with others, build relationships, and improve communication skills.

  • Animals also help in reducing anxiety and stress.
  • They provide and increase social support to people.
  • It provides motivation and focus.
  • Reducing pain and leasing fatigue
  • Animals also help to improve coping skills.
How to become an animal therapist
Image by Anna from Pixabay

What does an animal therapist do?

The day-to-day tasks of an animal therapist can vary depending on the setting they work in and the type of animal therapy they provide. However, some everyday tasks may include:

  • Evaluating the needs of the individual or group.
  • They conduct therapy sessions between patients and animals
  • Help patients improve social skills
  • Developing a treatment plan to meet the individual’s or group’s needs.
  • Acts as a facilitator between patient and therapy animal
  • Traveling to patients’ homes to perform therapy
  • Traveling to hospitals to perform therapy
  • Conducting therapy sessions with the individual or group.
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Owning and training therapy animals
  • Providing emotional support, guidance, and companionship.
  • Observing and documenting progress.
  • Working with other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care.
  • Following up with individuals or groups after therapy has ended.

Different types of animal therapy

There are many different types of animal therapy. Here are a few examples:

  • Dog therapy: working with dogs to provide emotional support, physical activity, and companionship.
  • Equine therapy: working with horses to improve physical, emotional, and mental health.
  • Cat therapy: working with cats to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Bird therapy: working with birds to improve communication and social skills.
  • Farm animal therapy: working with animals to promote physical and emotional well-being.
  • Pet therapy: working with any pet to improve mental and physical health.

Animal therapist salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal therapists earn about $49826 per year and about $ 23.05 per hour.

They earn about £427 per week, £1851 per month, and £22207 annually, and salary may vary based on location. However, salaries can differ depending on several factors, such as location, experience, and education.

Animal therapists in large cities or metropolitan areas earn more than those in rural areas. Those with more experience and advanced training may also earn higher salaries. In addition, animal therapists who work for large organizations or companies may earn more than those who work for smaller organizations or practices.

How to become an animal therapist

Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve your dream of becoming an animal therapist;

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

The first step is to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology or social sciences that will prepare you to become a professional.

2. Earn a master’s degree

The next step is to earn a master’s degree to gain more skills to conduct therapy sessions. It will increase job opportunities and enable you to earn licensing and a higher salary.

3. Gain experience working with animals through volunteer work or internship

This helps you gain learning opportunities to handle exceptional cases and specialize in order fields; it also allows you to work with other professionals.

4. Complete an animal-assisted therapy certification program

This can be achieved either by online certification or graduate-level certification in one preferred organization like Delta Society or Pet Partners.

5. Obtain license insurance and other certifications

To gain full access to practice, you may require a license; this may vary based on state fee options, including a licensed mental health counselor, licensed professional counselor, license in psychology, etc.

6. Join professional groups such as ACA(American Counselling Association)

AEE(Association for Experiential Education IAABC, etc.

7. Write Your Resume: this displays your qualifications and skills in this field

While writing your resume, ensure it matches your job description and lists all educational and license certifications.

8. Apply for jobs

After successfully filing your resume, you may apply for jobs in environments where animal-assisted therapy is needed.

Work environment for an animal-assisted therapy

These are places where animal-assisted therapy can be offered to individuals, and jobs may be available for those in the field.

They include;

  • Medical facilities: animal-assisted therapy may also include working in different medical facilities.
  • Correctional facilities: you may offer animal-assisted therapy in correctional facilities, jails, and prisons and help them improve mentally and socially.
  • Hospitals: Working with patients who are hospitalized to provide comfort and companionship.
  • Nursing homes: Working with elderly patients to reduce loneliness and improve quality of life.
  • Schools: Working with children to improve social skills, reduce stress, and promote learning.
  • Mental health clinics: Working with individuals with mental health problems to enhance their quality of life.
  • Private practices: Working with clients in a one-on-one setting.

Requirement for animal-assisted therapy

Some factors should be put in place and checked while offering animal-assisted therapy.

  • Getting the animal’s temperament tested: it is essential to note the animal’s disposition used for the therapy. It is different for many animals, so it is crucial to note their specific predisposed behavior while using animal therapy.
  • Getting the animals vaccinated in order: it is essential to vaccinate the animal to be used for therapy properly to curb the spread of disease and ailment
  • Screening animal for good health: before using an animal for therapy, the health of the animal should be kept in check for even better therapy sessions
  • Getting the animal’s dental checked: ensure the animal to be used has healthy dental and is round, hygienic, and healthy.

The physical and emotional needs of working with animals

Working with animals can be physically and emotionally demanding. Animal therapists must be comfortable being around animals, as they may come into close contact with them regularly.

They may also need to lift and carry animals and may be exposed to animal waste and other unpleasant conditions. Additionally, working with animals can be emotionally draining, as animal therapists often see sick or in pain animals.

Despite these challenges, many animal therapists find the work rewarding, as they see firsthand how their work can improve the lives of animals and their owners.

Common career paths for animal therapists

There are many different career paths available for animal therapists. Some standard options include:

  • Animal-assisted therapy coordinator: Overseeing animal-assisted therapy programs and working with other healthcare professionals to ensure the programs are effective.
  • Animal-assisted therapy instructor: Teaching others how to use animals in therapy settings.
  • Pet therapy volunteer: Working with animals in hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities to provide companionship and comfort to patients.
  • Animal-assisted activity volunteer: Working with animals in various settings, such as schools, libraries, and community centers.

Resources for an aspiring therapist

You can get the required training to become a professional animal therapist in these places.

They include;

  • The Delta Society: The Delta Society is a nonprofit organization that delivers resources and training for animal-assisted therapy professionals. They offer certification programs, educational resources, and networking opportunities.
  • Pet Partners: Pet Partners is another nonprofit organization that provides resources and training for animal-assisted therapy professionals. They offer certification programs, educational resources, and information on volunteer opportunities.
  • Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT): The APDT is a professional organization for dog trainers, but they also offer resources for people interested in animal-assisted therapy.
  • The Humane Society of the United States: The Humane Society offers resources on animal behavior and training and information on animal welfare.
  • The American Kennel Club (AKC): The AKC provides educational materials and resources on dog training and behavior.
  • The International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO): IAHAIO is a professional organization that provides resources and networking opportunities for people working in human-animal interaction.
  • Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association(EAGALA)
  • National Center for Equime Facilitated Therapy (NCEFT)
  • Therapy Dogs International

How to be a Standout Animal Therapist

If you want to stand out as an animal-assisted therapy professional, there are several things you can do to ensure it;

  • Please get to know your clients: You can better tailor your sessions to meet their specific goals by getting to know them and their unique needs.
  • Be compassionate: Animal-assisted therapy is all about building relationships and trust. Showing compassion and understanding can help you build strong connections with your clients.
  • Be a good communicator: Communication is vital in animal-assisted therapy. You’ll need to be able to explain concepts and instructions to both clients and animals clearly.
  • Adapting to each client’s need and circumstance: to become a successful animal therapist, you must understand each client’s peculiarities to provide better services.

Conclusion on How to become an animal therapist

Animal therapy is no doubt essential and plays a significant role in the lives of individuals; this blog post is written to guide people who have a vision of becoming-animal therapists on how to achieve their goals.

Those who embark on this journey are driven by a profound desire to bridge the gap between humans and animals, facilitating healing and promoting well-being for both.

As with any profession that melds passion with purpose, the rewards of becoming an animal therapist extend far beyond financial gain, touching the very core of our shared existence with the animal kingdom.”


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