Clinical Assessment for Human-Animal Interaction


As a nonprofit organization with nearly 70 years in the field of human-animal interaction, Green Chimneys continuously evaluates internal policies and procedures to not only maintain safety for children and animals, but also to seek ways to enhance how we serve our students and animal partners. We’re proud to share a new tool for clinicians and human service professionals working in the field of human-animal interaction (HAI).

After months of researching existing psychological assessments and discussing key needs both internally and externally, our clinical staff has developed the Animal Interaction Assessment (AIA), which can be implemented in many other therapeutic environments that incorporate animals into work with clients.

Developed by Green Chimneys School Psychologist Joanna Becker, Ph.D. (above left) and Social Work Supervisor Denise Luft, LMHC (above right), and initially implemented on our Brewster, New York campus in May, the AIA is used when a staff member has expressed concern over a specific child-animal interaction. Its ultimate purpose: to guide treatment decisions by offering clinicians insight into the function and history of a child’s problematic behaviors.

“We wanted to develop a comprehensive model for assessment involving children and HAI that looks at the whole child – beyond the incident – and focuses on understanding both a child’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Dr. Becker. “And unlike many other assessments, our new tool assesses the child’s sensory needs which is important when serving children with a wide range of diagnoses such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and traumatic stress disorders.”

In addition to incorporating sensory needs, the child’s social reasoning, trauma history and psychosocial challenges are evaluated. The AIA provides step-by-step questions and analytics for clinical-led activities including:
•   Interviewing the child
•   Observing a session with child and animal
•   Background questions and considerations
•   Scoring matrix
•   Assessment overview

A team made up of Green Chimneys psychologists, child care professionals, animal experts and social workers serve as an internal sounding board for our clinicians currently using the AIA.

“By looking at the whole child, we are better able to see how one incident is an opportunity to guide the child’s treatment plan,” explains Ms. Luft “Every time we’ve gone through this process, it has better shaped the next steps in therapeutic services we provide that specific child.”

Download the AIA assessment tool
As part of The Sam and Myra Ross Institute at Green Chimneys, which works to advance the field of HAI through advocacy, education and research, the human-animal interaction assessment is now available for professionals in the field. Provide your information below to receive a link to download a Word version of the AIA assessment. Once you've completed the form, please check your inbox and your spam folder for the email.

First name
Last name
Human check
Enter the above six characters into the field below.
Having trouble? Click here to regenerate.

Share data
Clinicians adopting the AIA in their work with clients are invited to participate in a data-sharing project. For details, contact Dr. Joanna Becker via or Denise Luft, LMHC via

Special thanks to...
Animals & Society for including the AIA on their website. Visit their assessments for practitioners webpage >

Visit our Facebook Page Visit our Twitter Page Visit our YouTube Page Visit our LinkedIn Page