Certified Animal Ethology and Behavior Specialists

The purpose of the Certified Animal Ethology and Behavior Specialist – Animal Assisted Play Therapy® (CAEBS-AAPT) program is to designate highly skilled animal professionals who are qualified to work with animals and their handlers in ways completely consistent with the Animal Assisted Play Therapy® values, principles, and methods. The CAEBS credential indicates specialized skill in training and assisting AAPT practitioners in the training, handling, and behavior interventions with their animals. Each person earning the CAEBS demonstrates proficiency with one or more designated species. Th CAEBS-AAPT certification is based upon demonstrated competencies in the same array of areas as required for the Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist credential, as well as in a number of additional areas that are animal-specific. Those holding the CAEBS are qualified to assist with supervision and training workshops with a focus on animal behavior within their scope of practice. The CAEBS Certification Manual is available on this website.

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

Author Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, co-creator of the field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy with Tracie Faa-Thompson, is shown here with Josie Patches, Murrie, and Kirrie.

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

www.iiaapt.org - info@iiaapt.org

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:


Diane Dioguardi, LPC, RPT, CAAPT, CAEBS

Diane is Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, and Certified Animal Ethology and Behavior Specialist in Connecticut and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York. She is currently working with children, adolescents and their caregivers in an outpatient clinic setting in New Milford, CT where she partners with her eight-year-old golden retriever Shannon who is AAPT-Approved and a Certified Facility Therapy Dog. Diane and Shannon tirelessly dedicate their days to working with children and adolescents who are struggling to overcome and cope with challenges, such as past traumatic experiences. When working with clients Diane incorporates into her practice play therapy and Animal Assisted Play Therapy®, with the help of Shannon, to create a nonthreatening therapeutic environment that allows individuals to feel safe, understood and supported so they can reach their goals. The use of playful and creative activities, which are both fun and help target clients’ interests, help to decrease clients' resistance to the therapy process and create a trusting therapeutic relationship. Having Shannon in the playroom not only helps the clients engage more fully but, due to Shannon’s extraordinary ability to connect with children and adolescents, makes them feel special, accepted and loved, something that the clients we work with often lack in their lives. In addition Diane partners with Shannon during group therapy work and has created the BARK group, an anti-bullying social skills group where children and adolescents Build Acceptance Respect and Kindness towards themselves and others.

Diane is also a licensed veterinary technician and worked for over twenty years in the veterinary field as her first career. She has a strong background in animal behavior and canine training as a result of her experiences in veterinary medicine and showing her dogs in both conformation and obedience trials throughout the years. Diane’s present career is a dream come true as it combines her passion for helping individuals overcome traumatic experiences with her lifelong passion for the healing powers of the human-animal bond.

Presently Diane is training her second therapy dog, Takoda, a chocolate labrador retriever who became part of the family this past year. Though he is still young, Takoda has the innate traits, friendly temperament, and playfulness that will make him a wonderful AAPT dog. Diane is currently working with Takoda on becoming a Canine Good Citizen and will transition to more formal therapy dog training in the near future. Diane is actively working on starting a part-time private practice, in addition to her current work, where she can continue to partner with Shannon and Takoda to help others in an empathetic, nonjudgmental, supportive and creative therapeutic environment.

Diane can be contacted at:





Teri works full time as a crisis counselor for Garland ISD, one of the 70 largest school districts in the nation. She is stationed at a high school of 3,000 students, and is one of a 13-member team of crisis counselors for 71 campuses and over 60,000 students. Before his retirement this year her canine therapy partner, Gibbs Theradoodle®, (a goldendoodle) accompanied her to elementary, middle and high schools for both guidance and crisis interventions. Gibbs worked tirelessly for weeks in the aftermath of a rare, winter F4 tornado that decimated the area the day after Christmas in2015.

Teri also owns her private practice where she counsels children, adolescents, and families with Gibbs and her other two canine assistants, Zoe (a red toy poodle) and Khaleesi (a tuxedo parti poodle). Gibbs and Zoe are both registered therapy dogs with Intermountain Therapy Animals, as well as registered Reading Education Assistance Dogs. Both have worked extensively with elementary children in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area at libraries, bookstores, and other programs. Gibbs was the R.E.A.D.ing dog for a pilot program at Literacy Instruction for Texas, and worked at a center in one of the poorest areas in Dallas to help children and their families learn to read. Gibbs Theradoodle® is well known in the DFW area as he has his own theme song and music video, Facebook page, agent and modeling career. He has done print work for Pier 1 Imports, and was also seen on national television in the Adolphus Children’s Hospital Christmas parade. He and Zoe have both volunteered at Dallas Children’s Hospital.

Teri is an licensed instructor and evaluator for Intermountain Therapy Animals, as well as a licensed instructor for Reading Education Assistance Dogs. She is a Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist-Supervisor with the IIAAPT.

Teri can be contacted at:




Kirsty MacQueen, MA, MAPDT [01229], CAEBS

Kirsty is a full member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (UK), a registered animal trainer with Animal Behaviour and Training Council and a candidate member of the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians. She has undertaken a number of dog training roles, including volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind Association puppy walker program, and running her own pet dog training and behaviour business – working closely with a local veterinary practice - for several years. Since 2015, Kirsty and her dog team have been delivering Animal Assisted Activities to around 200 children and young people across a range of settings; including prisons, residential care and small nurture classes within schools. In January 2020 she founded Therapawsitive CIC to concentrate on work with care experienced children and young people (children fostered, adopted, or living in residential care). Therapawsitive focus on empowering children to design their individual program, using play, relationship, and movement to create fun activities which are mutually enjoyable to both children and dogs. Bug and Peanut love learning with the children and have acquired a huge range of tricks, agility and cooperative care skills along the way; inspiring confidence and self-belief in children that they too have the required care, respect, and ability to work with animals someday.

Kirsty has undertaken a broad range of training and development relating to animal behaviour, understanding trauma,counselling skills and has also completed Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ levels 1 and 2. She holds a Master’s Degree (with distinction) in Human Animal Interaction at University of Stirling. Therapawsitive is a full member of Animal Assisted Interventions International and is committed to the highest standards of welfare for their dogs.


Contact Kirsty at: