Skip navigation

GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate

comprehensive education & training in human-animal interactions

The Animal-Assisted Social Work (AASW) academic certificate is the first of its kind in the nation. It explores the therapeutic use of animals in many types of social work practice—a new and exciting aspect of the field.

By earning this certificate, you'll learn how to:

  • Create, implement and evaluate Animal-Assisted Intervention programs in which an animal becomes a teacher, therapist, facilitator and support system.
  • Select the most appropriate animals for particular therapy modalities and how to care for the animals in accordance with nationally recognized welfare standards.
  • Understand how to identify, assess and intervene in "Link" violence—the frequent connection between animal-abuse and violence toward people.
  • Integrate concepts of nature-based therapeutics and conservation in your social work practice.
  • Become an advocate for animal welfare and ethics.

The AASW certificate adds three specialized, elective courses to the Master of Social Work (MSW) curriculum at the Graduate School of Social Work during the concentration year:

  • SOWK 4795: Integration of Animals Into Therapeutic Settings
  • SOWK 4796: Animal-Assisted Social Work Practice
  • SOWK 4797: Issues for Evidence Supported Animal-Assisted Social Work Practice

Participation in the AASW certificate also includes a field internship offering opportunities for AASW practice and supervision. The Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate is available for Denver Campus MSW students. This certificate is not available to [email protected], Four Corners or Western Colorado students.

Service, Field and Experiential Learning

AASW students have the opportunity to examine critical human, animal and environmental connections in numerous established internships and research projects domestically and around the world. Here are some examples:

  • Interested in exploring how animals change lives, transform trauma and improve the welfare of children, adults and families? Train a professional therapy dog during graduate school. Build your clinical social work skills to incorporate pets and other animals into the therapeutic environment. Create an animal-assisted intervention protocol to integrate into your professional practice.
  • Wondering how human behavior influences habitat protection for animals such as the giant panda? Find out by studying biodiversity protection issues while doing an internship at the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu, China.
  • Concerned about illegal wildlife trade and wild animal protection and advocacy? Participate in anti-poaching work while on assignment with our partner's at Africa Network for Animal Welfare in Kenya.
  • Interested in helping individuals and communities develop their capacity for caring for one another, animals, and the environment? Become a humane educator and explore how high-quality spay/neuter programs and effective re-homing offer opportunities to reduce community violence in eastern Europe.
  • Developing ideas every day of how you can make a difference in the lives of people, animals and the environment?  Join our MSW program and consider the AASW certificate program- this could be the graduate program you've been searching for.

The Institute for Human-Animal Connection also hosts a variety of Experiential Learning Labs for AASW students to gain experience and exposure to the exciting field of human-animal interactions, including speaker events, conferences, community field trips, and more.

Learn More

If you are interested in more multidisciplinary, educational opportunities in the human-animal interactions field, please visit our professional development pages:

For more information about the AASW certificate, please contact Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW, Clinical Professor at the Graduate School of Social Work, Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, and AASW Certificate Program Director.