SPOTLIGHT: TARA MOSER, Certified AAPT Instructor

Posted by on Jan 23, 2022

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Harry Pawter, Howly Quinn and Chewbarka keep tabs on the neighborhood

Spotlights on AAPT People of Note!

This post marks the beginning of a series of spotlights that we will share about our Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapy® Instructors. These individuals have gone through a rigorous training and apprenticeship program and offer the AAPT Level 1 workshop in various locations around the world. Each spotlight will include some biographical information, photos and/or videos, and the Instructor’s responses to a set of interview questions about their interests and work.

This post features Tara Moser. Please be sure to watch her short videos and photos along with the written information!

Tara Moser with Howly Quinn, 2018

Tara’s Bio

Tara Moser is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia. She is a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor as well as a Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist Supervisor and Instructor.  Tara owns Delta Family Counseling in Cape Coral, Florida where her team of therapists include dogs and hamsters in their practice seeing children ages two and up. Tara is the founder of Pawsitive Kids Camp®, which is a day camp for kids and rescue dogs working on mental health and adoptability! Tara and her husband own a holistic pet food store and foster for a local rescue. They have had over 600 foster dogs through their home from day old puppies to seniors of all sizes.  Tara is the current president for the Florida Association for Play Therapy.  Tara and her husband authored a children’s book, Bode the Beach Dog.

Tara started her AAPT journey with Abby, the lemon beagle. She then added Bode, the Great Dane mix, as she moved through her level 1 and Lennon, the Staffordshire terrier, as she moved through level 2. All three have since crossed the rainbow bridge and paved the way for Tara’s current dogs, three of which are practice dogs and one who stays home! More about them in the q/a section!

To connect with Tara or learn more:

tara@deltafamilycounseling.com

www.deltafamilycounseling.com

239-540-1155

A Video Message from Tara

Please click the link below to hear a brief video message from Tara about her work in AAPT!
https://www.dropbox.com/s/9wml1bs71t3ww9a/IMG_1348.mov?dl=0

 

The current Moser dogs. They are all approved for Animal Assisted Play Therapy® work.

A  Slideshow of Some of Tara’s Animal Assisted Play Therapy® Workshops

As a Certified AAPT Therapist-Supervisor-Instructor through the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy®, Tara conducts the Level 1 AAPT workshop. This workshop is comprised of 52 total hours of learning. It includes two online courses and 4 days of in-person learning that includes a great deal of hands-on experience and skill-building to help attendees meet many of the competencies needed to conduct AAPT effectively and with full attention to client progress and animal well-being and voluntary participation. It is also a major step toward certification in Animal Assisted Play Therapy®.

Click the link below to enjoy photos from Tara’s Level 1 workshops! One of the requirements of AAPT is that the animals must enjoy themselves as much as the human clients or students, and this illustrates that important principle.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y5npkgnztd9mlsr/Florida%20Level%201.MOV?dl=0

 

Chewbarka loves to pose with items. Here he is with a feelings wheel in one of the playrooms.

Interview with Tara

Where did your interest in animals originate?

I have had dogs my whole life but never realized how important they were in my life until I was in college and didn’t have one. Growing up we had cocker spaniels and Great Danes as well as all my relatives had dogs at their homes. In college when I realized I was missing my dogs, I volunteered and did some rescue work to make up for that and then as soon as my husband and I finished our graduate degrees, we got married and adopted Abby, our lemon beagle mix, literally as soon as we returned from our honeymoon! Since then, we have had over 600 foster dogs come through our home (some a day and some close to two years) and anywhere from 2-4 of our own at any given time. I may have been one of those people who found a dog or two and kept them in my dorm/apartment while looking for their family and before turning over to rescue! Rescue has been a passion of mine for a LONG time!

Has there been one extra special animal in your life? Tell us about him/her.

All of my dogs are special and unique in their own ways, however, Bode was my truly perfect dog! Abby picked Bode out from the shelter when she was about 1 and he was thought to be 12 weeks. She snubbed all the other dogs we introduced her to but loved him! He was said to also be a fawn-colored hound dog and fit in my hand…they were wrong! Bode grew to be 160lbs of Great Dane mix. Bode had the most amazing temperament and got along with every person and dog he met.  He loved life and was easy going, loved learning new things, and had clear boundaries!

Tell us about your current family companion animals.

Currently we have Harry Pawter, Chewbarka, Howly Quinn, and Jerry. Harry Pawter or HP as most call him, was our 2nd “foster fail” and has a very special bond with my son. He just turned 5 and is a true rescue mix. Chewbarka, known as “Chewy”, is a Great Dane rescue that came to us at about 10 months old with a terrible skin infection the prior owners couldn’t control. He was pink instead of black!  He is now beautiful, talkative and 4 years old. Howly Quinn, or Quinny as most know her, is a 3 year old blue merle Great Dane that a supervisee learned of needing a home as a puppy and my husband flew to Maryland and brought her back. She is our easy-going slobber queen! Jerry was adopted this fall after being fostered with us for 18 months. He is a Staffordshire Terrier mix and has had lots of trauma. We have worked so hard for him to trust people and find safety in people. He is thought to be around 3 years old.  Jerry is truly just a companion dog while the other three love to get out to the office and work with clients! We also have a hamster named “Chippy” who is our first dwarf hamster. She just turned 1. She is our fourth rescue hamster!

What drew you to AAPT in particular?

Some may have heard me present and know my story of finding AAPT, but for those that didn’t, I will give the short version! I knew NOTHING about including animals back when I was in school or working on my license. When I opened my practice, my sweet little beagle girl got herself removed from the condo we were temporarily staying in (beagles like to talk and she told everyone when we left for work every day) and I brought her to work as she had her own room away from clients. That was until a client spotted her and refused to come in unless I allowed her in. I was hesitant but both mom and client begged, and I tried it. So much could have gone wrong but something magical happened that day and I needed to know what! I then met Risë Van Fleet and began my journey to learn how to include animals into my practice safely, humanely, playfully and with purpose!

Tell us about your work in AAPT practice and training, as well as in other animal-related activities.

As with many of us, I wear different hats. I own Delta Family Counseling in Southwest Florida where we have 4 therapists, 9 dogs, and 1 hamster currently on our team—oh and a freshwater fish tank that is for clients in the waiting room! We opened in 2006, around the same time I learned about AAPT. All of our team has been through Level 1, with two of us fully credentialed and the others working on it. We love the diversity of our animals and are always up for a conversation about rescue dogs, especially the “bully” breeds on our team!

I am a firm believer in lifelong learning, so I am always growing my skills set by taking more mental health trainings as well over the last decade, adding more and more dog training courses to my tool box. I belong to several dog training organizations as well as mental health groups to continue to blend AAPT into my clinical practice! Along with learning, I love teaching and especially about Play Therapy and Animal Assisted Play Therapy®!

We also have a nonprofit we created in 2013 called Pawsitive Kids Camp®. This unique camp combines AAPT principles with rescue dogs and kids! We offer 3-5 day camps a year during off-school breaks and match each child with a dog working on something similar. During the week the kids are working on themselves while helping the rescue create more adoptable dogs. We work on self-esteem, social skills, problem solving, boundaries and more while making dog crafts and adding in training segments. We talk about safety around dogs and looking at how they communicate with us. The kids then help the rescue hold an adoption event at the end of the week to showcase all the dogs have learned. So far all the dogs except 1 from Summer 2021 have been adopted!

Our family also owns an independent, holistic based pet food store that my husband runs and operates here in town, The Beach Dog. We sell food, treats, supplements and dog/cat supplies you can’t find in your big box store. While dog communication, engagement, training, and relationships are my specialty, I always love to listen to my husband help families problem solve to find the right food and treats to help their pets! His knowledge is amazing whether looking at dry kibble, raw, freeze dried, etc and what our animals eat can play such a big role in their overall health and engagement!

We also continue to be very active in the local rescue community by fostering and volunteering our time at events.

What have been the highlights for you about your involvement in AAPT?

This is a hard one to narrow down! I have found highlights in every piece of the process; from learning AAPT existed to attending level 1 and 2, my own AAPT supervision, adding more AAPT to my practice, creating our non-profit, and adding facilitation of AAPT supervision and instruction through the process. I have made friends across the world that I don’t know I would have ever crossed paths with!

What do you see as challenges for professionals who wish to include animals in their work?

In mental health in general, I see a challenge of so many wanting to get a quick training and call themselves an expert. A challenge I see with those who wish to include their animals in practice is that it is about the humans (therapist and client) and animal and the bonds among all three! Humans cannot be trained alone. Animals can be trained alone and just because there is already a relationship, doesn’t mean it is the relationship needed for including in our work.  Including animals in our work needs to focus on their need for agency as well as remembering they are sentient beings with choices and not a purchased toy/item for the office.

What is a surprising or unexpected thing you learned through your work in AAPT?

I have been surprised how much I really want to buy land and to have a large property to add more of the animals I have fallen in love with! I dream of living on, or even building a practice, with horses, goats, and chickens! I have loved adding to my learning the inclusion of other species and the power of just being in their presence. I will admit the hamster work was a surprise too, however it has been amazing to learn their communication and engagement with people to include in sessions. My surprise has been how much animals in general resonate with who I am and not just dogs!

What prompted you to go through the very involved process to become a Certified AAPT Instructor?

I didn’t start this process to become a supervisor or instructor. I started to grow my learning and develop my skills to hopefully include my dogs. Abby led me to it and she and Bode helped me develop the plan as well as show me their limits and communicate their needs. Being a supervisor for social work in Florida and Play Therapy led me to then, after many years, explore the options of adding the level of AAPT supervision and recognizing the needs of each tier as different and specialized. Those foundations then lead the way to take my passion for teaching and supervision to bridge to the Certified AAPT instructor role and embark on the journey that has led me to where I am today…which is the next step, not a final step in my practice and skill development (remember above where I said I am a lifelong learner!). Teachability is so important on so many levels and I hope I model my passion for seeking and providing it!

What is one piece of advice you would give to any professional wishing to involve animals in their work?

Take the necessary steps and don’t just leap! There is amazing value and power in including your animals in practice, however that power can also be so dangerous if not done with proper training and support!  Reach out and connect for support in taking those steps! (ok that was maybe more than one piece of advice I tried to blur/hide together as one!)

 

 

Quinn in one of her selfies

 

Companion dog Jerry and Approved AAPT dog Harry Pawter

 

Thank you, Tara, for sharing a glimpse of your important work, workshops, some of the animals in your life, and insights into AAPT!

This Spotlight on Tara Moser has been brought to you by the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy®. If you wish to learn more about Animal Assisted Play Therapy® with dogs, horses, cats, goats, and other species, check out www.iiaapt.org!