Animal assisted therapy for diverse target groups in the welfare sector is a new field in Flanders. Equitherapy (therapy using horses) is done in some places, and several services and institutions organise small zoos for their clients. The targeted use of an animal as partner in a (therapeutic) care process, however, is subject to many criteria and requires specific knowledge of the combination of animals, people and care objectives. Indeed, working via animals entails a double responsibility: for the client AND for the animal being used. Both must experience sustainable and positive effects.

The training will pay special attention to:

  • The creation of a new care context in which both people and animals can relax and recover.
  • The difference between care activities with animals and therapeutic work with animals.
  • The deliberate and focused contextual use of natural elements in a care process.
  • Selection and management of the animals. Enrichment of collective and individual habitat.
  • Health and safety criteria for people and animals.
  • Legal criteria
  • The creation of an animal assisted therapy (AAT) programme is always tailored to the client and the animal.
  • Knowledge and skill with respect to the animals: farmyard breeds/pets.
  • Therapy via animals is a methodology that aims to address the causes in a care context. It was intentionally developed to make possible a restoration of existential trust.

The methodology itself is universal and applicable/translatable to any target group. This training programme, however, places the emphasis on using animals to help children and youth suffering from a psychosocial problem.

The training programme

Animal assisted therapy is an interactive programme in which each course participant – based on the theoretical offerings available – chooses a unique approach and adapts the content and practical application thereof within an existing care framework. We also intentionally opt for an ecological approach.

The training lasts 2 years and consists of 2 modules. In addition to theoretical lessons, several afternoons of methodology (practical applications), workplace learning and distance learning are foreseen. Both theory and methodology are given on Thursday mornings. There is also a 2nd group that takes classes on Thursday evenings.

The participants will be further classified into a web class, will create their own AAT programme and a thesis will be linked to this.

Target group

This training programme is intended for people already trained in and/or working with children and youth or adults with psychosocial issues and who wish to enhance their stills around AAT. A minimum feeling for animals is required. For the rest, participants must have access to a computer and an internet connection. Good command of the English language is required since several textbooks are written in English. Participants must understand that in addition to the actual training hours, additional commitment is expected with respect to the web class, the completion of their project and their thesis. The programme is limited to 30 participants.


The following Thursday morning class series starts in September 2015. Interested parties may contact Balans and will be invited to an intake interview in the spring of 2015.

Following intake interviews: Spring 2015. Check website for exact dates. 

Balans: centre for social welfare training and therapy, training for social and educational work, Edgard Tinelstraat 92 9040 Ghent (Sint-Amandsberg) Tel.: (09) 218.89.39 Fax: (09) 229.32.55 E-mail: in partnership with VSPW/Balans.