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New Animal Assisted Therapy in Counseling Program at University of North Florida

Eli and Carlene Taylor in Studio 5

The Division of Continuing Education and Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida have launched a certificate program for Animal Assisted Therapy in Counseling

It has also paired with the Therapy Animal Coalition to present the Third Annual Therapy Animal Expo and Symposium , which will take place at UNF this Saturday, March 2, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The three-course certificate program aligns with the American Counseling Association, and its curriculum follows the Policy and Research Animal Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies.

The certificate course 101 is open to anyone interested in animal assisted interventions. Courses 102 and 103 are limited to licensed, licensed-eligible, registered interns, and provisionally licensed mental health professionals.

The expo and symposion will look at how animals can help with reducing human stress and improve psychological healing. It is a human-only event but service animals are allowed.

“In the last five years, we have some really good evidence-based research that’s come out that demonstrates that if you will pet a dog for 10 minutes it will lower your stress hormone and increase your oxytocin,” Carlene Taylor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Qualified Counselor Supervisor in Florida, and Visiting UNF Professor explained to Melissa Ross on First Coast Connect.

Dogs are not the only animal that can be used for animal assisted therapy in counseling. Reverend Elizabeth Teal, Minister, Ministry of Animals said on First Coast Connect that “within the framework of the conference it would be any animal that is legally owned and domestic because that is the shape you have to put on any kind of visiting pet work.”

The expo and symposium consists of three tracks to register for. The different tracks feature workshops, nationally recognized therapeutic-animal experts, research and clinical faculty as speakers and exhibits for all pet owners who are interested in learning about animal-assisted interventions and therapy (often referred to as “pet therapy”).

It also will provide guidance for people interested in establishing an animal intervention (or therapy) program at their facility, school or business.

Listen to the entire interview with Reverend Elizabeth Teal, and Carlene Taylor on Tuesday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

Amanda Brannon can be reached at, 904-358-6317.