Dog Animal Assisted Counselling

UK's first MSc Animal Assisted Counselling created for mental health professionals

Dog Animal Assisted Counselling

Hartpury University has announced a new MSc Animal Assisted Counselling degree (as well as a Postgraduate Diploma pathway), set to commence in September 2024. This exciting new programme has been designed exclusively for those already qualified as mental health practitioners, including psychologists and counsellors. It will help them to develop their understanding and expertise in using Animal Assisted Services (AAS) within their practice.

The MSc Animal Assisted Counselling has been created to provide mental health providers with a theoretical and practical understanding of effectively working with animals.

The programme will explore the philosophical, ethical, and practical frameworks that underpin AAS. In line with Hartpury University’s wider postgraduate offering, it will empower students to influence positive change in industry, and maintain best practice when working with animals in human mental healthcare.

As well as refining skills to maximise welfare and wellbeing for humans and animals, mental health practitioners on this course will gain a greater understanding of companion and working animal regulations, allowing them to ensure their practice remains legal and compliant. Through developing an understanding of animal learning theory, students will be better informed and educated about selecting, handling and training animals within AAS. 

The degree will be led by a team of experienced academics, researchers and practitioners at Hartpury University, ensuring that students receive high quality, research-informed teaching and mentorship throughout their studies. The MSc Animal Assisted Counselling can be studied part time with flexible delivery to fit around practice work and other commitments. Among other dedicated modules, a dissertation will allow those on the MSc pathway to research an area of their own interest in relation to animal assisted counselling under the guidance of a relevant academic.

Dr Clare Thomas-Pino is Programme Manager for the MSc, and has a background in psychology, animal behaviour and mental health counselling. Her research activities have focused on ensuring optimal wellbeing for the animals that work within human therapy and support.

She said: “We’re proud to announce the introduction of an MSc Animal Assisted Counselling, which represents an opportunity for those psychologists and counsellors already working in practice and looking to incorporate AAS. Those studying the programme will explore the many benefits of this discipline while also considering practice, ethics, legality and research. As is the case across all of our Animal degrees, the programme places a strong focus on animal wellbeing and all activities will be adopted with our One Health, One Welfare approach.

“The programme aligns with our commitment to providing innovative, relevant education that prepares students to make meaningful contributions in their chosen fields.”

Postgraduate study at Hartpury

Earlier this year, Hartpury University was ranked number one in the UK by full-time postgraduate students in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2023, for support across its postgraduate animal degrees. The institution was also awarded triple Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in September.

ISAZ Conference 2024

Hartpury University will host the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) Conference at its Gloucestershire campus from 27-30 June 2024. The theme is ‘Watch and Learn: The value of observing and being with animals’ with a vision to explore and bring greater awareness of the value of observation to both human and animal wellbeing. 

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