Education - Graduate School of Social Work Courses

The University of Denver Graduate School of Social Works offers a variety of courses in human-animal connections. 

History of the Animal-Assisted Social Work Program
and Institute for Human-Animal Connection

Horse nuzzleIn 1999, The Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) introduced a new course entitled, Integration of Animals into Therapeutic Settings, with Philip Tedeschi, LCSW as the instructor.  The class, which was originally suggested by a group of GSSW students, offered second-year MSW students the opportunity to explore the therapeutic use of human-animal interactions. The course focuses on integrating national standards of care, proper safety and care guidelines for animals and clients, experiential and alternative therapy theory, knowledge and skills into students' core clinical skill training.

In January of 2002, GSSW was contacted by  Jan Metzler, the personal representative for the estate of Will George Neahr, a 1942 DU alumnus.  Mr. Neahr was a great lover of animals and had divided his estate among several animal-serving local charities.  One of these was no longer in existence following his death, so it fell to Jan Metzler to determine an alternative use for that portion of the estate in such a manner that it would carry out Mr. Neahr's original intent.  Because Mr. Neahr was very fond of DU, Ms. Metzler contacted the University to see if there were any programs or projects that might be related to animal well-being.

Ms. Metzler was directed to GSSW because of our existing class. Philip Tedeschi and Anne Bryan then met with Ms.Metzler to discuss the existing class as well as the potential for creating additional courses or a certificate program.  The Dean (Catherine Alter) and MSW Program Director (Kathy Ohman) were consulted regarding GSSW's interest in expanding the curriculum and the necessary steps to implement any bequest.  With their approval, Philip Tedeschi prepared a proposal for an academic certificate, in what was entitled, Animal-Assisted Social Work (AASW) and submitted the proposal to Ms. Metzler in February 2003.  After consulting with the estate attorney, she chose to direct the bequest to GSSW, with the specification that funds would support curriculum development, materials, and ongoing programmatic needs of a new certificate program, if approved by the faculty and University representatives. The donor representative particularly liked the potential for an academic focus and for additional research exploring the benefits of human-animal interactions.

In Feburary of 2004, Philip Tedeschi completed and presented the final certificate proposal. The AASW certificate program required approval by GSSW's Dean, the MSW Program Director, The MSW Curriculum Committee and the GSSW faculty of the whole. It also needed to be reviewed and approved by The University of Denver's Graduate Council and Vice Provost for Graduate Studies. The proposed certificate met the criteria listed under University of Denver Credit (Academic) Certificates Guidelines.  These requirements identify that a certificate program is an organized program of study totaling 18 hours of credit. Specialization is then formally listed on students’ transcripts and recorded as part of the University's official academic course offerings. The academic unit offering the program administers each certificate program.

In 2005, the Animal Assistance Foundation and the American Humane Association each provided critical planning grants that allowed Jennifer Fitchett and Philip Tedeschi to complete development and receive approval from Dean Catherine Alter to open the Institute for Human-Animal Connection. These grants allowed for a gradual but steady increase in specialized field placements for GSSW MSW students interested in AASW. As part of the planning grant, a distance-learning, professional development certificate,  Animals and Human Health, was launched and continues to be offered at the GSSW.


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