Definitions & Terminology

Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI)

An Animal Assisted Intervention is a goal oriented intervention that intentionally includes or incorporates animals in health, education and human service (e.g., social work) for the purpose of therapeutic gains in humans. Animal assisted interventions incorporate human-animal teams in formal human service such as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Animal Assisted Education (AAE).


Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Animal Assisted Therapy is a goal oriented, planned and structured therapeutic intervention directed and/or delivered by health, education and human service professionals. Intervention progress is measured and included in professional documentation. AAT is delivered and/or directed by a formally trained (with active licensure, degree or equivalent) professional with expertise within the scope of the professionals’ practice. AAT focuses on enhancing physical, cognitive, behavioral and/or socio-emotional functioning of the particular human client.


Animal Assisted Education (AAE) (or Animal Assisted Pedagogy)

Animal Assisted Education is a goal oriented, planned and structured intervention directed and/or delivered by educational and related service professional. AAE is conducted by qualified (with degree) general and special education teacher. Regular education teachers who conduct AAE must have knowledge of the animals involved. An example of AAE delivered by a regular education teacher is an educational visit that promotes responsible pet ownership. AAE, when done by special (remedial) education teachers is also considered therapeutic and a goal oriented intervention. The focus of the activities is on academic goals, prosocial skills and cognitive functioning. The student’s progress is measured and documented. An example of AAE delivered by a special education teacher is a dog-assisted reading program.


Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) 

Animal Assisted Activity are informal interactions/ visitations often conducted on a volunteer basis by the human-animal team for motivational, educational and recreational purposes. There are no treatment goals for the interactions. AAAs are generally facilitated by individuals who do not have a health, education or human service degree. Human-animal teams have received at least introductory training, preparation and assessment to participate in informal visitations. Human-animal teams who provide AAA may also work formally and directly with a healthcare, educator and/or human service provider on specific documentable goals. In this case they are participating in AAT or AAE that is 5 conducted by a specialist in his/her profession. Examples of AAA include animal assisted crisis response that focuses on providing comfort and support for trauma, crisis and disaster survivors, and visiting companion animals for ‘meet and greet’ activities with residents in nursing homes.


(International Association of Human Animal Interactions Organization)


Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP)

Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP) is the integration of an animal as an adjunct to traditional counseling or psychotherapy. The animal works with the therapist within a specified treatment plan and interventions are designed with the specific client and specific animal in mind to achieve a particular therapeutic goal. AAP requires that the animal and therapist to be trained and is working within their scope of practice and experience.


(Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado)


Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Wellness Care Farm

Nourishing Hearts

UA-106751249-1