Announcing the Distance Learning Certificate course in

Harcum College, in Bryn Mawr, PA, is proud to announce a new, comprehensive Introduction to Animal-Assisted Therapy & Activities on-line course. This 10-week course, taught by internationally renowned human-animal bond and AAT author Phil Arkow, offers a Certificate of Completion. This Certificate may be eligible for employer reimbursement and Continuing Education Units depending upon the requirements of the student's employer and/or professional association.

This course is an introduction to the human-animal bond and its therapeutic applications. It is designed both for professionals from a wide range of disciplines, and for volunteers, students and newcomers who wish to further their knowledge and explore career opportunities in this emerging, multi-disciplinary field.

Students will examine how contact with animals can enhance human well-being when incorporated into health care, social services, psychology, psychiatry, education, allied health, therapy, and many more fields. Students may already be trained in these or similar fields, or may be seeking to enter the field. The course explores conceptual frameworks, research, and practical techniques that will empower you to introduce animals in a variety of milieus. It enhances students' personal growth and professional development. Through extensive reading, on-line research, site visits to local facilities, and networking in on-line discussion groups, students will obtain both an overview of the human-companion animal bond (HCAB) and Animal-Assisted Therapy & Activities (AAT/AAA), with opportunities to concentrate on specific programs or applications of particular personal and/or professional interest.

In this Distance Learning format, students learn at their own pace. There are a series of weekly reading and writing assignments which students may complete at their convenience during the week, and opportunities for students to comment in online discussion forums at their own schedule. There are no exams, and no set times when students must be in front of a computer. All research, reading, writing, and site visits may be done in the student's own  community. Small class size enables the instructor to work closely with individual students to meet their needs.

The AAT/AAA certificate:


About the Distance Learning Certificate course FAQs What Do Our Students Say About the Course?

I. Course Title: Introduction to Animal-Assisted Therapy & Animal-Assisted Activities

II. Course Number: AAT 101-IN

III. Certificate/Credit status: A 30-hour on-line course with 10 hours of additional clinical observation time (site visits to local facilities). It will require reading of a textbook and articles on the course website, on-line research, regular on-line discussions, and visits to healthcare facilities in the student's community. This non-credit, Certificate of Completion course may be eligible for Continuing Education Units for most healthcare and other professions, according to association requirements. Please contact the Harcum College School of Continuing Studies for details.

IV. Syllabus: The course is comprised of 10 weekly units:
1 - Introduction to the Human-Animal Bond and its therapeutic applications

  • Health benefits of AAT
  • Human-animal relationships

2 - History of AAT/AAA and multi- cultural implications

  • Attraction of people to animals
  • Ethnic attitudes to animals
  • Pets in Asian and Muslim cultures

3 - Key concepts in HCAB that affect animal-assisted interventions

  • Ten value systems toward animals
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Neoteny
  • Catalysts for communication
  • Attachment
  • Symbiosis

4 - Institutional and clinical AAT/AAA for adults

  • Healthcare facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Physical, Occupational & Recreational Therapy and rehab
  • Psychotherapy and behavioral health
  • Therapeutic riding

5 - How to become an AAT/AAA practitioner; Career opportunities

  • Options to enter the field
  • Animal registry options

6 - Selecting animals for AAT/AAA; Protecting the welfare of therapy and service animals

  • Animal selection and evaluation
  • Animal welfare concerns

7 - How to conduct an animal-assisted visit; Infectious disease controls

  • Monitoring pet-patient interactions
  • Infectious disease concerns
  • Tips & techniques for success
  • Governmental regulations

8 - How to organize an AAT/AAA program; Risk management

  • Planning strategies
  • Risk management
  • Third-party reimbursement
  • Institutional policies

9 ­ AAT/AAA with children and youth

  • Pets and child development
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Reading programs
  • Behavioral health interventions
  • "Nature-deficit disorder"

10 - New frontiers in AAT/AAA

  • Future growth and opportunities
  • New directions in the field


V. Sessions: The next 10-week sessions are scheduled to start:

Summer 2014 -- April 28, 2014

Fall 2014 -- September 15, 2014

Spring 2015 -- January 26, 2015

Summer 2015 -- Dates TBA

VI. Tuition: $950, including textbook. Visa & MasterCard accepted.

How Does an Online Course Work?
Taking our online course is remarkably easy. There are 10 weekly modules: these consist of reading assignments from the textbook; essay and discussion assignments; responding to your fellow students' ideas; and making 2 site visit "clinical observations" in your community to observe programs in action (These could be hospitals, rehab centers, prisons, nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, libraries, or any similar place where animals are being used therapeutically. You'll have to find out where these programs are. We'll help students in remote areas find suitable alternatives if  local programs are not available.)

You complete each module at your own pace during that week. There are no specific times during the week for the on-line discussions: students participate at their own schedule. You should spend about three hours a week doing research, reading, and writing assignments.

Most everything is done is online except the textbook, which will be sent to you by mail before the class starts, and your local site visits.


What Will the Course Do For Me Professionally?

Over the years, our students have been quite successful in integrating AAA/AAT into their work (in psychology, healthcare, education, counseling, rehabilitation. etc.) and into volunteer opportunities. Some have been able to establish new AAA/AAT services entrepreneurially.

The course is fully accredited and may meet your profession’s Continuing Education Units (CEU) requirements. The Certificate provides specialized background and training to help you explore and focus your interests, identify ways you can implement AAA/AAT, and connect with others doing animal-assisted interventions.


What Benefit is the Certificate ?

Based upon requests from practitioners, the course was developed to advance the professional standards of AAT/AAA and to recognize those who have made a commitment to this work. The certificate helps professionals who incorporate AAT/AAA in their scope of practice to have these interventions recognized as valid and effective. The designation will help validate the expanded education, skills, and experience needed to be successful in animal-assisted interventions.

While mental and physical health, education, social services, and other professionals are already defined by their licensure and credentials, adding the AAT/AAA certificate will provide them with a demonstration of their knowledge and skills to incorporate animals in their practice. Non-professionals and new people entering the field will gain a “road map” to learn the skills required to work with people with the help of animals.

The course has been approved for CEU credits by the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals for mental health and education professionals seeking re-certification.

What Prior Training Do I Need ?

None! Prior credentials, degrees or professional training are not required to take the course. All you need is a computer, Internet access, the ability to read and write English, and a passion for helping people through the healing powers of animals.

Will the Course Certify My Pet?

It is helpful, but not necessary, to have any pet(s) you plan to include in your work registered by one of the national registries. This registration may or may not be required by facilities incorporating animal-assisted interventions. We recommend you pursue this, and one course module explores these options and helps you prepare for the pet registration process. Pet registration is handled separately between the student and the national registry organizations.

Are Foreign Students Eligible ?

Absolutely! We have had students from Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Dubai, France, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.K. We work with foreign students to help them overcome particular challenges in their situations. Foreign students must pay tuition with a Visa or MasterCard, and are encouraged to register early to allow extra time for the textbook to reach them.

The AAT course continues to have a profound impact on my personal goals and achievements in further AAT/AAA study.  I feel it is important to let you know that, compared to other courses, in my opinion, the Harcum course is far superior in terms of academic level and course material. Your discussions were highly academic and professional, and seemed to reach a higher quality of professionalism and course content. Your program was highly beneficial to me in furthering AAT and academic pursuits. Your program has an in-depth and thought provoking examination of research and information that demands critical thinking and/or application of AAT. Your reference textbook is highly prized and has given me numerous current and relevant references. I just want to thank you for the study opportunities I received. I have referred to the Harcum course material on numerous occasions in my MSW studies over the past year. Thank you again for your expertise.

-- Dianne S., Canada

The class is excellent. It really puts a framework to the industry, the potential it holds, and my possible contribution to it. Your feedback is so timely and insightful telling of years of experience, which is very much appreciated.

-- Karen G., Illinois

The professor was excellent, very knowledgeable, respectful, and extremely helpful. I would be pleased to have the opportunity to take another course with him again. He was quick to respond and very approachable.

-- Betty B., Canada


-- Amanda K., California

The whole reason I chose this course is because I know of and greatly admire Phil Arkow’s work and extensive knowledge and expertise on the subject. My employers (who paid for me to do the course) tried really hard to get me to do a course in Britain but I was insistent I wanted to study Phil Arkow’s course and it has totally lived up to my expectations.

-- Debby B., United Kingdom

The course design exposed me to a variety of things that I might not have been able to discover on my own.

-- Susan C., District of Columbia

The instructor’s availability, response to questions, and feedback on assignments and discussion area activities were prompt, timely, helpful and comprehensive.

-- Lanie K., South Korea

The online experience was very convenient – a God-send! I couldn’t have studied this subject in Thailand, and been a home-schooling Mum, without it!

-- Michelle S., Thailand

The textbook is a book you could use on an ongoing basis for information as you need it.

-- Kathy M., Ireland

I am more knowledgeable now about what is going on in other places.

-- Sarah R., Virginia

The syllabus was full of useful information and very detailed about what to expect and how to access the website. I really appreciated all of the information.

-- Alison F., Dubai

The course was inspiring to me and helped me feel confident in moving forward with AAA/AAT at my school.

-- Amy B., New York

I was a bit unsure of taking an online course at first. This experience has shown me that it can be a very effective and worthwhile way of learning.

-- Katy O., Pennsylvania

The course book will be one of my foundation pieces for acquiring more literature for my own professional library and setting up the beginning framework for the AAT program I will implement into my counseling work.

-- Michelle G., Canada

There was a good balance of reading, Internet research, “hands-on” experiences, and opportunities to interact with others engaged in AAA/AAT.

-- Nan D., Maryland

I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to read and write to an amazing group of people!!!!

--Bethani G., New Hampshire

This was an ideal way to take this course as I would not have been able to travel to attend classes. I have already recommended this course to two friends.

-- Annie C., Connecticut

I want to congratulate you for the whole idea of this course, including the website organization and the way you taught us by making us search for answers and share opinions. In my opinion this is the best way to learn. With this course I was introduced to the wonderfull world of AAT and realized what are the difficulties and what my next steps should be if I plan to have a project on my own.

-- Sofia A., Portugal

I came into the course with a lot of personal and professional experiences in AAT but I felt challenged and increased my knowledge through the learning activities.

-- Deborah W., Washington State

I am a ‘mature’ student and have not been involved in formal study for a good number of years. I found the assignments were designed to reflect not only one’s grasp of the material presented, but to reflect the degree of research and effort put into them. This allowed me to channel my energies in the areas of most interest to me – a very effective way to learn.

-- Viola J., Canada

Taking your course was really helpful. You gave me a lot of insight to teach the human-animal bond for students. I am sure that I will use what I learned when teaching in the future.

-- Aki S., Connecticut/Japan

Your class has lit a fire under me. Please know that I will gladly recommend this class to anyone interested in taking it. It was worth every penny. I cannot be more thankful or grateful for this opportunity. You have been such a wonderfully engaging instructor and your love of the subject shines through. Wow!
                                                - - Michelle H., Wyoming

How to register: Register online at   Or you can Contact Ms. Clair Sauer in the Continuing Studies Division of Harcum College at 610-526-6083 (8:30 am to 5 pm, Eastern U.S. time zone), or NOTE: Class is limited to 12 students: registrations will be accepted on a first come-first served basis. The textbook will be sent to you with your registration materials once the college receives your payment (major credit cards accepted). Students closed out from a course will be automatically placed in line for the next course.

If you have questions regarding Harcum College, CEU credits, registration procedures, and technical details, please contact Clair Sauer at the phone number/e-mail above.

If you have questions regarding AAT/AAA or the content of the course, please contact me.

Phil Arkow, Instructor
Phone: 856-627-5118
(Eastern U.S. Time Zone)