Top 5 Animal-Assisted Counseling Books

Five Great Books for Practitioners Interested in Partnering with Their Animals

Would you like to learn more about animal-assisted counseling (AAC)? There are lots of books out there about therapy dogs and dog training, however many of these books don't align specifically with the field of AAC. Books about AAC will help you to learn more about animal communication, therapeutic work with an animal partner, and methods for training your animal partner.


If you are a mental health practitioner and would like to learn more about partnering with your animal, consider checking out some of these amazing books!


1. The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell


Who is on the other end of the leash from the dog? That's right - you! This book is an excellent tool for learning more about your relationship with your dog. Dr. Patricia McConnell shares insights on how to understand dogs as a separate species from humans and how to connect with your dog through canine communication.


This book is beneficial for dog owners, dog trainers, and practitioners wanting to partner with their dogs in animal-assisted counseling. This easy-to-read book teaches you how to understand how dogs perceive you and how you can understand them with more compassion and empathy.


What I Like Most About This Book: The simple concept that we need to learn about and understand dogs, not the other way around.


2. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling (3rd edition) by Cynthia Chandler

This book is one of the most comprehensive books on integrating animal-assisted therapy into counseling (AAT-C). In this book, Dr. Cynthia Chandler provides an overview of animal-assisted therapy in the context of clinical work, research in this field, and the concepts of human-animal relational theory. She also presents how to choose and train and animal partner and understand the ethics and liability involved in clinical work with animals.


Dr. Chandler also provides information on applying clinical theories to AAT-C, animal-assisted counseling practices, and how to work with animals in a variety of contexts with different client populations. This book is an invaluable resource for practitioners working with animals.


What I Most Like About This Book: Dr. Chandler's gentle and insightful way of describing her work and experience in AAT-C and the pictures of her dogs and the teams she has helped to train.


3. Don't Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor

This book is an excellent tool for animal-assisted counseling because it focuses on the concepts of positive reinforcement training. Dr. Pryor is a leading advocate for the "clicker training" method of animal training, in which animals get reinforcement through the use of a clicker and treats. Her focus on using positive methods, rather than punishment, shaming, or dominance methods, is a perfect and necessary fit for partnering with an animal in counseling.


The newer version of this book focuses on applying these behavioral training principles to animals, and also in a variety of other contexts, such as parenting, coaching, and learning.


What I Most Like About This Book: To be an excellent animal-assisted counseling practitioner is to understand concepts of positive training methods for animals. Clients watch how their counselors treat an animal. Having a collaborative and positive relationship with your animal partner is achieved through force-free training methods, in which animals have the ability to make choices and practitioners reinforce those good choices.


4. Canine-Assisted Interventions: A Comprehensive Guide to Credentialing Therapy Dog Teams by John-Tyler Binfet & Elizabeth Kjellstrand Hartwig

I'm proud to be a co-author of this book! John-Tyler and I wrote this book when we recognized that there was a need for more information on credentialing therapy dog teams. In this book, we define and provide an overview of canine-assisted interventions (CAI). We also discuss how to have an effective therapy animal team and how to keep clients and animals safe during CAIs.


As animal-assisted counseling practitioners ourselves, we focus a large part of the book on therapy dog team training and evaluation. We provide guidelines for preparing your animal for clinical work and details in working in specialized contexts and with varied populations. The book also provides helpful information on when to retire a therapy dog from volunteer or clinical work.


What I Most Like About This Book: The chapter on Canine-Assisted Counseling! I truly enjoyed writing this chapter and sharing about my experiences in training therapy animals teams through the Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy.


5. Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Foundations and Guidelines for Animal-Assisted Interventions edited by Aubrey Fine

This book has 32 chapters of in-depth information on foundations and guidelines for animal-assisted interventions (AAI). Editor, Dr. Aubrey Fine, sought out various experts in the AAI field to explore important topics. The book is divided into four sections: Conceptualization of the Human-Animal Bond, Animal-Assisted Interventions and Therapy (AAT), Best Practices in AAT, and Special Topics in AAIs. This book provides a wealth of information for beginners in the field and more seasoned practitioners who would like to delve into more specific topics of AAI work.


What I Most Like About This Book: The emphasis on evidenced-based practices in AAIs. Each chapter cites relevant research in the field to demonstrate that working with animals is not only transformative, but also well-researched.



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