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Counseling and Animal Assisted Interventions at Idaho State University

With a high prevalence for mental health issues and low access to care, Idaho is ranked 49th in the nation for adult mental health and 46th for children's mental health. Dr. Leslie Stewart, associate professor of counseling for Idaho State University and her colleagues in the Department of Counseling are taking a unique approach in solving this mental health crisis by partnering with trained therapy animals such as rabbits, dogs and horses in providing animal assisted therapy and interventions.

Recording Date: 12/1/2021

Host: Teresa Conner, DPT, Dean for the College of Health

Guest: Leslie Stewart, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling for Idaho State University and Conner Vrba, a masters-level ROAR Lab member and AAI Certificate student

Leslie Stewart, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical professional counselor and associate professor in Idaho State University’s Department of Counseling. Her areas of expertise include animal assisted interventions in counseling and supervision, trauma-informed counselor preparation, Motivational Interviewing, and counselor training with experiential and expressive modalities. Before beginning her career in counseling and counselor education, Dr. Stewart facilitated therapeutic horsemanship as a Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH, Intl.) certified instructor. Since then, Dr. Stewart has incorporated animal assisted interventions (AAI) with dogs and rabbits in college counseling and juvenile detention settings. At Idaho State University, Dr. Stewart directs and instructs the Certificate Program in Animal Assisted Interventions, offers AAIs in her clinical supervision, and incorporates AAIs in her teaching across the CACREP Core. Dr. Stewart contributed to the development and publication of competencies and standards of practice in several organizations: she is the primary author of the American Counseling Association's Animal Assisted Therapy Competencies, and a contributing author to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Best Practice Standards for Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Assisted Interventions International's Standards of Practice for AAIs, and the Pet Partners Tiered Handler Competencies. Dr. Stewart serves as a member of the Pet Partners Human-Animal Bond Advisory Board and the Daily Paws advisory board. Outside of her professional roles, Dr. Stewart shares her life with several species of animal family members including dogs, rabbits, mice, a cat, and a ball python. In her free time, Dr. Stewart enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and wildlife viewing in the beautiful Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Conner Vrba - ISU College of Health Sciences graduate student

Teresa Conner, dean for the College of Health at Idaho State University oversees College of Health administration and operations through facilitating strategic and facilities planning. Conner also supports a robust research profile, promotes faculty development in teaching, scholarship, and service, as well as builds and maintains collaborative relationships within the COH, community organizations, business and industry, civic and government, and educational systems.