Professional Animal-Assisted Social Work – Challenges for Training

Kateřina Thelenová

OBJECTIVES: This article answers questions about the position and role of animal-assisted therapy in social work and presents research findings on targeted training in this field. It is not an appeal to become therapists using animals, but to the responsibility of those using animal assistance in fulfilling particular goals. THEORETICAL BASIS: The article uses the perspective of foreign research – the professionalism of animal-assisted therapy in the consideration of the needs of clients and social work methods. The basic concepts are Animal-Assisted Intervention in Social Work and Animal-Assisted Intervention in Social Work Education. METHODS: The theoretical concepts were verified in a 24-month-long study researching the experience and expectations towards professional therapy with animals. The respondents were workers in helping professions providing animal-assisted therapy or those interested in it. OUTCOMES: The absence of a definition, methodology, quality standards and supervision makes the fulfilment of a client’s goals impossible, imposing a risk of harming the client or the animal and damaging the reputation and quality of the service. IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL WORK: Social workers need a knowledge of professional animal-assisted therapy, which should be distinguishable from volunteer activities. Quality training in animal-assisted therapy and quality standards will lead to the protection of the worker, the client and the animal.

professional animal-assisted therapy, quality standards of animal-assisted therapy in social work, education