Distance Learning Certificate Course

Make-a-DifferenceHarcum College, in Bryn Mawr, PA, offers a comprehensive 10-week online Continuing Studies course with a Certificate of Completion which may be eligible for employer reimbursement and Continuing Education Units depending upon the student’s employer or professional association.






Click here to register online.


Course title: Introduction to Animal-Assisted Therapy & Animal-Assisted Activities (AAT/AAA)

Course Number: AAT 101-IN

Certificate/Credit status: A 10-week, 40-hour non-credit online course including 10 hours of additional clinical observation time (site visits to local facilities* – see below). It will require reading of a textbook and articles on the course website, plus online research and discussions. There are no tests or exams. Because there are no national or state accreditation bodies requiring professional Licensure a continuing-education Certificate of Completion, such as this course offers, is all that may be required (see below).

*NOTE: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare and other facilities have restricted outside visitors and many AAA/AAT programs have been suspended. Until this situation is resolved, we will make accommodations for students who are unable to make such site visits by substituting either virtual/video tours and/or telephone/video interviews.

Continuing Education Units: This non-credit, Certificate of Completion course may be eligible for CEUs for various professions, according to association requirements. Because the course attracts students from over a dozen different disciplines, and from 50 states and more than two dozen countries, it isn’t logistically feasible for Harcum College to establish procedures in advance with every possible accreditation commission. Instead, it is up to the student to contact his or her particular state or national accreditation body to determine if the course fulfills their requirements. If the accrediting body has forms to be submitted, they may be sent to the Harcum College Office of Continuing Studies where every effort will be made to complete them as necessary.Please contact the Harcum College School of Continuing Studies for details.

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

  • Physiological and mental health benefits of AAT
  • Definitions of terms and concepts

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

  • Our attraction to animals
  • Differing ethnic attitudes to animals

3 – Key concepts in the Human-Animal Bond

  • Ten value systems about animals
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Neoteny
  • Catalysts for communication
  • Attachment
  • Emotional symbiosis

4 – Institutional and clinical AAT/AAA

  • Hospitals, hospice, and long-term healthcare facilities
  • Correctional institutions and “cell dogs”
  • PT, OT, RT and rehab
  • “Wounded Warrior” and PTSD programs
  • Therapeutic riding
  • Mental health, Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Crisis response therapy programs
  • Substance abuse programs
  • Animal therapy with homeless populations

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

  • Options to enter the field
  • Career opportunities
  • Animal registry options

6 – How to organize an AAT/AAA program

  • Laws and regulations
  • Planning strategies
  • Risk management
  • Third-party reimbursement
  • Animal welfare considerations
  • Infectious disease control
  • Residential pets

7 – Selecting animals for AAT/AAA; Protecting the welfare of animals

  • Animal selection and evaluation
  • Animal welfare concerns

8 – How to conduct an animal-assisted visit

  • Monitoring pet-patient interactions
  • International guidelines
  • Tips & techniques for success
  • Considerations for patients with specific conditions

9 ­ AAT/AAA with children, youth and other populations

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

10 – New frontiers in AAT/AAA

  • Future growth and opportunities
  • New directions in the field

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

  • Click here to register
  • Spring 2024 — January 16, 2024 (please register by Jan. 6)
  • Summer 2024 — dates TBA
  • Fall 2024 — dates TBA

We strongly encourage early registration. Class size is limited to 20 students and registration is first-come first-served.

Tuition: $1,280, including textbook*. Payment must be made via major credit card by the start of classes. Unfortunately, no scholarships or deferred payment plans are available.

* Because of ongoing issues with the U.S. Postal Service, students in foreign countries will receive an online, downloadable pdf version of the textbook. Foreign students who also wish to receive a hard-copy of the book can order it separately, for an additional charge of $60.00 US.



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 field.


RehabStudents will examine how contact with animals can enhance human well-being in such fields as health care, social services, psychology, psychiatry, education, allied health, PT, OT, therapeutic recreation, speech & language pathology, family counseling, and many more. The course explores conceptual frameworks, research, and practical techniques that will empower you to introduce animals to a variety of settings. It will enhance your personal growth and professional development and prepare you to provide evidence-based animal-assisted interventions following best practices. Through readings, on-line research, site visits, and online discussions, students focus on both the general human-animal bond and specific interventions of personal interest. You’ll gain a “road map” to learn the skills required to work with animals to help people and a network of like-minded people with whom you can collaborate and support each other in future practice.


Animal-assisted therapy and activities do not require certification, accreditation or licensing.  But it is unwise and potentially hazardous to undertake AAT/AAA without prior training, so a Continuing Education Certificate of Completion is all you really need. Many facilities require AAT/AAA handlers and animals to have training, registration, and insurance coverage. The course will get you started on the right foot (and paw) and give you a Certificate of Completion

For professionals wishing to incorporate therapy animals into their practice, you will simply plan and conduct the interventions that you would normally do for your clients with the addition of incorporating an appropriate and evaluated animal into the session or the environment as a facilitator to help the client to meet his or her identified goals. There are no separate billing codes for AAT; you just bill the same codes that you would normally use but clearly document that you have incorporated a therapy animal into the session and the outcomes from that interaction.


  • document that you have taken a recognized curriculum and possess a certain level of specialized skills, knowledge, and commitment.
  • establish credibility when launching a program, writing a resume, or applying for a grant or business loan.
  • encourage continued personal and professional growth.
  • may qualify for CEUs (check with your school or professional association)

It’s remarkably easy. There are 10 weekly modules involving reading assignments, writing short essays and responding to your fellow students’ ideas. There are no tests or exams. You’ll work at your own pace each week to get your assignments in on time: there are no fixed times when you have to be online. The entire course is taken in the student’s own community. Most students spend 3 to 4 hours a week on assignments. Small class size enables the instructor to work individually with students to meet their needs. You’ll get weekly feedback from the instructor, tailored to your interests, to help guide your learning.The textbook will be sent to you by mail before the class starts. (Foreign students may opt for a free downloadable pdf of the textbook.)

One goal of the course is to help students expand their horizons and connect with AAA/AAT opportunities in their regions or fields of interest. This is a learning experience to help students build their local networks and discover the many faces, venues and opportunities offered by animal-assisted interventions. Three modules require site visits to observe programs in action (e.g., hospitals, rehab centers, prisons, nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, libraries, or similar places where animals are being used therapeutically). You’ll have to find out where these programs are. Students in remote areas may be permitted to substitute online research if  local programs are not available. NOTE: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare and other facilities have restricted outside visitors and many AAA/AAT programs have been suspended. Until this situation is resolved, we will make accommodations for students who are unable to make such site visits by substituting either virtual/video tours and/or telephone/video interviews.

The site visits are generally easy to fulfill:

  • For Week 4, you’ll make arrangements to visit a long-term healthcare facility, assisted living, hospital or something similar (this facility does not have to have an AAT/AAA program): the objective is to examine the systems and forces at work in an institution that would make it conducive to AAT/AAA.*
  • For Week 6, you’ll need to interview someone at another facility that does have an AAT or AAA program.*
  • For Week 8, you’ll need to observe an AAT or AAA program in action.*

* With AAT/AAA programs proliferating, you should not have trouble finding programs near you. (You may have to do a little traveling, but it will be worth it.) If you’re in a remote area where no programs are available, or where COVID restrictions are in place, you will be allowed to substitute online research.

Since 2005,our students have successfully integrated AAA/AAT into their work and volunteer opportunities. Some have started entrepreneurial AAA/AAT services.The course is fully accredited and may meet your profession’s 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. 


None! 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.


It is helpful, but not necessary, to have any pet(s) you plan to include in your work. Pets should be registered by a reputable national or local registry, but this may or may not be required by facilities incorporating animal-assisted interventions. The course explores these options and helps you prepare for registering your pet. Some students take the course to help determine what type of therapy animal to acquire.


Absolutely! We have had students from Abu Dhabi, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Dubai, Ecuador, France, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, and the U.K. We work closely with foreign students to help them overcome challenges in their situations.

Because of ongoing issues with the U.S. Postal Service, students in foreign countries will receive an online, downloadable pdf version of the textbook. Foreign students who wish to receive a hard-copy of the book can order it separately, for an additional charge of $60.00 US.


“The AAT course continues to have a profound impact on my personal goals and achievements.  Your discussions were highly academic and professional, and reached a higher quality of professionalism and course content. 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

“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 exposed me to a variety of things 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 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 course was inspiring 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. — 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

“I am a ‘mature’ student and have not been involved in formal study for a good number of years. The assignments were designed to reflect not only one’s grasp of the material, but to reflect the degree of research and effort put into them. This allowed me to channel my energies in 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

“Your class has lit a fire under me. 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

“I had the opportunity to review some of my assignments yesterday and, much to my amazement, each one was accompanied, not only by a grade but also by an awesome, thoughtful response to what I had written! I had NO IDEA you had provided such detailed notes along with the marks. It was like opening a box of chocolates – I was so excited to see what the next comment would be and to savour it! I had a smile on my face the whole time. Your attention to the ‘Canadian’ perspective is very much appreciated along with the wisdom you bring from your many years in the field. Thank you again for the extensive feedback on the essays and discussion questions.”   — Lynn R., Alberta, Canada

Click here to register online.

NOTE: Class is limited to 20 students: registrations are accepted on a first come-first served basis. The textbook will be sent to you 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 Terri Groody at Harcum College at 610-526-1860 (8:30 am to 5 pm, Eastern U.S. time zone), or tgroody@harcum.edu.

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

Phil Arkow, Instructor
Phone: 828-595-9750
(Eastern U.S. Time Zone)