Certified AAPT Professionals


The International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy® offers a full certification program for professionals who have met our stringent criteria for this credential. It is a full certification (different from a “certificate program”) because individuals must satisfactorily demonstrate their competencies in the understanding and effective, ethical practice of Animal Assisted Play Therapy®. The human professionals must attend at least 150 hours of online and in-person training programs, satisfactorily complete supervision that typically takes a year, and work extensively with their animals to ensure the positive, relationship-based approach that AAPT is built upon. The competencies cover the multidisciplinary fields that comprise AAPT, and these are listed in the AAPT Certification Manuals included in this website. The animals must be approved using several indices of their suitability and their therapists’ abilities to advocate for their needs and ensure their welfare at the highest levels. AAPT is fully described in the book by Risë VanFleet and Tracie Faa-Thompson (2017). Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.

The Directory is divided into the following sections:

Each entry includes a brief biography of the individual as well as contact information. If you have any questions at all about this listing, the training and certification programs, or AAPT in general, please send them to info@iiaapt.org. Certification Manuals for each of these credentials are found here.

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AAPT was developed, at first separately as Canine Assisted Play Therapy® and Equine Assisted Play Therapy® by Dr. Risë VanFleet and Tracie Faa-Thompson, respectively. They began collaborating and then offering training workshops together in 2004. They have coauthored dozens of articles and chapters, and their widely acclaimed book, Animal Assisted Play Therapy, was released in 2017.

Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, CAEBC-I

Dr. Risë VanFleet is a co-founder and director of the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy®. She is also the President of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center, Inc., in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, an organization specializing in the training and supervision of child, family, and play therapy professionals. She also provides therapy to families and runs the Playful Pooch Program. She is a Licensed Psychologist (PA), Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with 45 years of clinical, supervisory, administrative, and teaching experience. Her specialties include AAPT, Filial Therapy, chronic medical illness in families, disaster mental health, complex trauma and attachment issues. She has trained and supervised thousands of clinicians internationally. She also provides behavior consultation with family dogs, and specializes in highly fearful, traumatized, unsocialized dogs.

Risë is the author of a number of ground-breaking and award-winning books, and she has authored dozens of articles, chapters, and manuals. Books include (but not limited to) Animal Assisted Play Therapy, Filial Therapy: Strengthening Parent-Child Relationships Through Play, Child-Centered Play Therapy, The Human Half of Dog Training: Collaborating with Clients to Get Results, and more. Her materials have been translated into several languages. She is also featured in several video-based online courses and the American Psychological Association’s DVD, Filial Play Therapy. She is on the editorial board of two major journals, and is a past president and board chair of the Association for Play Therapy.

Dr. VanFleet has been the recipient of 16 national and international awards, including the PPA’s Distinguished Contributions to the Science and Profession of Psychology Award, several awards for her education and training programs such as APT’s Play Therapy Professional Education and Training Award, 5 awards (Maxwell Awards and Special Awards from the DWAA) for her writing, and 2 awards for her wildlife photography.

Dr. VanFleet may be contacted at:

Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, CAEBC-I
International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy®
PO Box 613, Boiling Springs, PA 17007


Tracie Faa-Thompson, MA, AASW, PGdipNDPT, CAEBC-I

Tracie Faa-Thompson, BA, Social Work; MA, Crim; PG NDPT, Clin Hypno, Cert EAGALA, Certified Animal Ethology and Behavior Consultant-Instructor, and Certified Filial Therapist and Instructor is also a cofounder of AAPT. She is a specialist social worker in adoption working with traumatised children and their adoptive and foster families in the UK. She is a British Association of Play Therapists Qualified Play Therapist who uses a mix of individual play therapy, Filial Therapy, and group filial methods. Tracie is also a practice teacher of social work students and a trainer in Life Story Work and attachment theory. As a clinical hypnotherapist, Tracie incorporates Eye Movement Integration with Emotional Freedom Technique as an effective approach to trauma. She has conducted training programs for professionals on attachment and resilience, life story work, sibling contact in adoption, introductions of adoptive families and children, Filial Therapy, and AAPT.

Hailing from a Scottish/Romany Traveller family, Tracie has grown up with dogs and horses as integral to her native culture. Tracie is a member of the Classical Riding Club and the founder of Turn About Pegasus, an equine-assisted programme for at-risk youth and also for families with a variety of difficulties. She is EAGALA approved for both mental health and equine specialist roles. She is the founder, and for over 20 years, the Chairman of her local Riding for the Disabled Centre until its recent amalgamation with another purpose-built centre.

Tracie is coauthor of the internationally acclaimed book, Animal Assisted Play Therapy, and author and coauthor of dozens of chapters, articles, and training manuals. She regular conducts AAPT work with all ages as part of her Turn About Pegasus program and conducts training in AAPT throughout the world. Tracie has a lifetime of experience of living and working with dogs and horses and over 30 years of working with vulnerable children and families.

Tracie can be contacted at: