This program will introduce counselors, social workers, and therapists to animal-assisted therapy.


We start by answering the questions “what is AAT?” and just as 

importantly “what isn’t AAT?” We then explore the ethical implications of bringing an animal into the therapy room and begin thinking critically about the role of animals in our culture (and what that means for our clients).


Attendees will learn about the benefits and risks of AAT and review the ACA’s recommended competencies for aspiring animal-assisted therapists. Finally we discuss some basic interventions to learn when working with a therapy animal and watch a mock AAT therapy session in action.


About the Facilitator: Annalisa Smithson, LPC, NCC, is a board certified counselor, 

animal-assisted therapist, and business owner. She is the founder and 

director of Unleashed Counseling, a full-time counseling practice with a small, but 

passionate team (including Benji the Therapy Dog). She is licensed in Pennsylvania and 

holds a master’s in counseling from Lehigh University, a master’s in anthropology from the University of Sussex, and a certificate in animal-assisted therapy from Harcum College. Her peer-reviewed research has been published in Psychology in the Schools and the Journal of the PCA. Annalisa is the author of Emotional Support Animals: Clinician’s Guide to ESA Assessments and Recommendation Letters.


Learning Objectives: Define animal-assisted therapy (AAT). 

Describe the different types of support animals. 

Discuss the concept of the human-animal bond. 

Discuss the cultural implications of AAT. 

Understand the scientific rationale for working with therapy animals. 

Discuss the ethical implications of AAT. 

Describe some basic interventions when working with a therapy animal.


This workshop is offered on a pay-what-you-can scale. We encourage anyone suffering economic hardship to pay any of the lower rates that work with your finances and anyone with economic stability to pay at the $15 full rate.

Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling