Dr. Taylor Chastain Griffin saw a need for further research in Animal-Assisted Interventions and jumped right in.

In this 54th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Dr. Taylor Chastain Griffin, about her experiences incorporating therapy animals into her own work as a mental health professional as well as her roles as Executive Director at the Association of Animal Assisted Intervention Professionals (AAAIP) and the National Director of Animal-Assisted Intervention Advancement at Pet Partners.

In her early twenties, Taylor knew that she wanted to find a career where she could combine her love of animals with her love of people which led to a career in mental health counseling utilizing Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI). What she didn’t expect was that becoming licensed in the field would only become the beginning of her journey. As she dug further into AAI research she quickly learned that there was a need for more standardization in the field. 

If you’re ready to learn more about Taylor’s work and research in AAI, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • How Taylor began her career as a dog trainer before becoming a mental health professional.
  • Why she decided to contribute to AAI research and standardization.
  • What you should look for in selecting a therapy animal organization.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [01:46] Taylor introduces us to her nine dogs and three cats and discovers that I’m an enabler when it comes to foster fails. She said we shouldn’t be allowed to talk due to this discovery, but we continue with our conversation.
  • [03:12] In her early twenties, Taylor was looking for a way to combine her love of people with her love of animals into a career which led to her discovery of animal-assisted interventions in mental health counseling.
  • [03:46] Taylor shares how she quickly learned that there was great potential in therapy animal work so pursued her doctorate in order to help standardize AAI through further research.
  • [04:52] For Taylor, therapy animal work is a destination rather than a journey and she references Dr. Aubrey Fine in describing the dance that takes place as you experience AAI with different people and animals along the way.
  • [05:37] Taylor shares how she enjoys working with animals because of the human they encourage her to be as well as their tendency to act as an emotional thermometer not only with their own humans but with others they’re interacting with as well.
  • [07:06] We dig into Taylor’s roles at Pet Partners and AAAIP to unpack her involvement in AAI research and standardization in both volunteer and professional environments.
  • [08:20] I reference our episode with Nicole and Maggie to talk about the opportunities for professionals to partner with volunteer dogs which prompts Taylor to bring up goodness of fit with therapy animals.
  • [09:49] Taylor elaborates on degree of fit and the importance of reading your dog’s body language.
  • [10:20] Taylor discusses the differences between sister organizations Pet Partners and AAAIP to cover additional professional AAI needs such as insurance, certification and continuing education.
  • [12:43] I share my own positive experience of attending AAAIP expert calls.
  • [13:52] Taylor elaborates on the need for standardization in Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) and the work AAAIP is doing to collaborate with experts across various vocations.
  • [15:56] Taylor shares what it is about her own experiences as a Therapy Dog volunteer handler, mental health professional, trainer and researcher that she brings to her current roles.
  • [17:08] A viewer asks a question about how to select an organization and Taylor shares her insights as well as a call out to the  TherapyAnimalStandards.org resource.
  • [18:04] If you’re wanting to get started as an AAI professional, Taylor recommends ensuring that you are solid in your vocation before incorporating animals.
  • [18:50] Taylor introduces the idea of Animal Related Engagement (ARE) to incorporate ideas of animals into your work before bringing in therapy animals.
  • [19:43] Taylor shares Pet Partners’ Human Animal Bond Advisory Board as a resource for finding experts in the AAI field in addition to those who are members of AAAIP and gives a shoutout to behaviorist Dr. Gina Caldwell.
  • [20:49] Taylor’s encouragement to stay focused if you are interested in this work.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

Mentioned in this episode:

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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