Animal Assisted Play Therapy (AAPT) is a full integration of Play Therapy with animal-assisted therapy, primarily for mental health/psychotherapy and education purposes. It is valuable in helping children, adolescents, and adults, and can be provided for individuals, groups, and families.
AAPT has been defined as “the integrated involvement of animals in the context of play therapy, in which appropriately-trained therapists and animals engage with child, family, & adult clients primarily in play interventions aimed at improving the client’s psychosocial health, while simultaneously ensuring the animal’s well-being and voluntary engagement in the process. Play and playfulness are essential ingredients of the interactions & the relationship” (VanFleet, 2013). The feature that most distinguishes AAPT from other forms of animal assisted therapy (Chandler, 2012; Fine, 2010) is the systematic inclusion and encouragement of play and playfulness as the primary means of expressing feelings, developing relationships, and resolving psychosocial problems (VanFleet, 2008; VanFleet & Faa-Thompson, 2010, 2014).
(IIAAPTS) was founded to provide cutting-edge training, certification, and continuing professional development opportunities for mental health and animal professionals interested in the integration of psychotherapy, play therapy, and animal assisted therapy, or in providing support services to therapists who wish to conduct AAPT. The practice of AAPT requires a complex set of skills for both therapists and the animals who assist them. The IIAAPT trains a range of therapists and have different certification programmes. The highest is being a certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist. The training is endorsed by the American Psychological Association.
AAPT is highly effective and since its inception in 2006 by its co-founders there is a growing body of empirical research with former students doing their PhD research in this area. Unfortunately due to some unfortunate developments in the early days of the ASF where Equine Assisted Therapy was being delivered by well meaning but unqualified people and clients got emotionally and physically hurt the wider range of animal therapies suffered and ALL animal therapies were off the table. Despite this it's one of the most effective and popular forms of therapies for children and families, cited by the families. It's a short term intervention with long term results.