- Why a certification program instead of just a list of available classes?
- Can I take individual classes without enrolling in the certification program?
- How do I know if this is the right program for me, and how is it different from other pet loss grief support training programs?
- Who is the program for? Who should attend?
- How is the program unique?
- What is distance learning? What is a teleclass, a webinar, and an on-demand class?
- What technology is needed to participate in the classes?
- Are classes held live or on-demand?
- How Do I enroll in the program and how do I register for classes?
- Do program participants have access to dialog with instructors one-on-one?
- Since the founder of the program is both a grief counselor and an animal communication counselor, does that mean that this program promotes or assumes that animal communication must be part of pet loss grief healing?
If you have other questions about the program for which you cannot easily find an answer to on the site, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to respond to any questions!
Why a certification program instead of just a list of available classes?
Taking individual miscellaneous classes, even in one field of specialty, does not provide the same rich integration and wholeness that occurs when classes in a program are intentionally organized and built upon common theory and philosophy, code of ethics and guiding principles. This program requires written integration papers for all competed classes which deepens the meaning and professional learning from the courses. It also requires private mentoring which provides students with personalized assistance and support with learning and application to the real world work with clients.
The combination of classes (a total of 108 hours of class depending on length of electives chosen), written integration papers, 27+ hours of one-on-one mentoring with class instructors, case studies and recorded practice sessions provide program participants the opportunity to not only build intellectual understanding of loss and grief healing but also a personal integration of the material, synthesizing their own personal and professional experiences with class content.
Can I take individual classes without enrolling in the certification program?
Absolutely! All classes are open enrollment and can be taken anytime, by anyone. You do not need to be in the certification program in order to take any individual class of your choice.
How do I know if this is the right program for me? How is this program different from other grief support training?
We encourage individuals seeking training and certification in this field to clarify what is most important to them in such training, then choose a program that truly fits their needs—that is aligned with their values, goals and the time and energy they are willing to commit to professional training. Asking oneself the following questions is a good start:
The values inherent in training or certification programs about the human-animal relationship, about the grief healing process, and about the helping relationship vary. What are my values in these areas, and how do the programs available match these values? Participating in a program that is congruent with one’s values will yield a more fulfilling experience during the training and likely a more productive experience working with clients after the program.
My goals for learning and working with clients
The depth of professional competence one is seeking to develop and for what purpose is important to consider before choosing a program.
Do I want to increase my knowledge about grief as it applies to pet loss to enhance my awareness and sensitivity with clients in my current roles, and am I more interested in an introductory class or program that teaches me a good foundation of the basics rather than an in-depth program?
Do I want to increase my knowledge about grief as it applies to pet loss, not just to enhance my awareness and sensitivity, but to also build solid, in-depth counseling skills and knowledge that would provide me with the competence to work with pet loss clients privately or facilitate pet loss support groups?
As an example, a veterinary professional or a healing arts practitioner who may want to increase their knowledge about grief as it applies to pet loss, to enhance their awareness and sensitivity with clients, may receive what they need from a 10-30 hour survey program that offers an introduction to the issues of pet loss and pet loss support (or from taking a few classes in a longer program).
On the other hand, someone who wants to effectively and ethically facilitate a grief support group, support clients in chat groups or work with animal loss clients privately, a longer program that provides in-depth competency development in grief support and counseling skills would be much more beneficial and appropriate to prepare them for those roles.
What depth of professional training is appropriate to meet my goals?
Am I able and willing to devote perhaps 10-30 hours for an introductory program in this field to further enhance my understanding of pet loss and grief support?
Am I able and willing to devote many more hours to feel confident that I not only have an enhanced understanding of pet loss but have also built solid, in-depth skill to work with clients privately?
Numerous classes and programs are available which fit a diverse sets of needs, values and goals. Several are described below to help those interested in pet loss grief support training gather information and make informed choices about what is the right fit for them.
- The Association of Death Educators and Counselors (ADEC), the premier international professional organization in the field of death, loss and grief, offers a Certification in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement focusing on human death and loss. It does not include any specialty training or certification for pet loss grief support. However, we strongly encourage our program participants to take ADEC webinars on grief support as part of their life long continuing education.
- The Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement, offers a 12-hour pet loss counselor training program for $300 and is to be commended for offering the first certification program for pet loss support. The certification program includes one class of five sessions and an exam, based on a book, The Loss of a Pet, written by the organization’s founder Wallace Sife, Ph.D. The program’s mission statement on their website describes holistic tools for healing grief as controversial and cautions against them.
- Two Heart Pet Loss Center offers a 15-hour certification program for $600 based on the highly regarded work of Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D. Coleen Ellis, the instructor, is a business consultant and salesperson in the funeral, cremation and cemetery industry.
- Pet Loss Grief Mentor Certification Program offers a 36 hour video based program for $2,500 which includes two, 30 minute sessions of private guidance with the instructor. The instructor, Wendy van de Pol, is a life coach and massage therapist for horses and dogs who refers to herself as a superpower with animals and an animal whisperer. She holds an MS in Wolf Ecology.
- The American Academy of Grief Counseling (part of The American Institute of Health Care Professionals) offers a Pet Loss Grief Recovery certification program with six topics for $900. The program entails reading six textbooks and the successful completion of an exam to become certified. There are no live or webinar instructors, handouts or audio files. However, the person listed as instructor may be emailed if one has questions about the exam. http://aihcp.net/pet-loss-grief-recovery-ce-courses-program/
- Programs which do not provide grief counseling skills training but rather encouragement to repress grief. Unlike the previously described programs which acknowledge grieving over the loss of beloved animals as an authentic, significant human experience, there are also some pet loss classes that tend to center on new age philosophy about death and the afterlife that deny grief’s legitimacy. Many of these consultants refer to grief as something which can and should be avoided because it is a “low vibration energy.” A well known law of attraction author and speaker, Esther Hicks, tells her audiences that when we experience significant loss we should just “focus away our grief and feel joy” because our loved ones have transitioned to a happy existence. She describes grief as unnecessary, a feeling that is merely a programmed response to loss, and that “the perfect amount of grief is none.” Note that we do not recommend, in any way, the repression of grief.
The Animal Loss & Grief Support Institute’s Training and Certification Program was created to fill a void: to establish a comprehensive, distance education program which included in-depth grief counseling skills training as well as encompassing both the psychological and spiritual issues of healing grief for those who have lost their animal loved ones. The combination of classes, written integration papers, case studies. recorded practice sessions, and one on one mentoring provides program participants the opportunity to build intellectual understanding of loss and grief healing, deepen their compassionate and healing presence, build and demonstrate competency in grief counseling skills, and integrate and synthesize their own personal and professional experiences with class content.
- Certification requires 104 hours of class training (which could be slightly higher, depending on class electives chosen), 15 classes, 27 hours of private, one-one-one coaching in 18 mentoring sessions with instructors, 15 written papers, 8 case studies submitted for review, 6 recorded counseling sessions submitted for peer and instructor review and includes over 1,200 pages of class handouts and exercises.
- Classes are based on state-of-the-art work in the topics of each class and the experiences of a variety of instructors. There are 15 instructors who teach the classes in the program, bringing diversity and breadth and depth of experience, perspective and knowledge to the program. The required reading list encompasses more than 16 books from the fields of loss, grief healing (including complicated grief, traumatic grief and disenfranchised loss and grief), counseling psychology, client-centered counseling skills, trauma and post trauma stress, animal hospice, compassion fatigue, ethics and boundaries and spirituality. Extensive additional suggested reading lists are available with each class handout package.
- The program focuses exclusively on grief from the loss of animals.
- The classes in the program are designed and taught by people who work primarily or exclusively with pet loss clients and/or animal issues, rather than generalist practitioners who do not have specialized training or experience working with pet loss clients.
- Acknowledges grief and all of its accompanying feelings as a natural response to loss, one that holds great potential for emotional and spiritual growth and the deepening of wisdom when consciously faced and healed. The program teaches participants how to help clients accept and process all their feelings, however overwhelming, rather than encourage them to deny or bury them, i.e. to take what is referred to as the “spiritual bypass.” Psychologist John Welwood coined this term in 1984 and describes it as the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings or unresolved wounds (to read more about spiritual bypass: Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. “Beware of Spiritual Bypass” Psychology Today Oct 2, 2011
Who is the program for? Who should attend?
The program is for people with a genuine desire to help others with the pain of pet loss, people who know what that pain feels like, those who hold deep compassion and love for others who are experiencing it, and want to build their competence to effectively help.
The program is open to anyone who has a desire to build or augment their knowledge and skill in the field of animal loss grief counseling, and is willing and able to complete the classes, written papers, case studies. recorded practice sessions and mentoring required for a certification of completion.
Participants have included pet loss support group facilitators, veterinarians and other veterinary staff, animal communicators, healing arts practitioners, animal shelter and rescue group workers, animal chaplains, animal trainers and behaviorists, professional pet sitters and dog walkers. Many of the classes may be helpful to therapists who want to increase their understanding of the disenfranchisement of pet loss and the strategies best known to help clients with this loss.
Individual classes are not limited to those seeking certification. Though prerequisites apply to some of the higher level classes, one does not have to enroll in the program of study to take the classes. Classes are offered in open enrollment. A number of the classes are relevant and appropriate for people who are grieving, or animal lovers who just want to better understand issues around animal death, grief and healing.
There are no educational or professional role prerequisites for enrolling in the program. However, participants who are aligned with the underlying values and ethics of the program will likely be much more comfortable with and fulfilled by the program. Before enrolling, those interested in the program are asked to complete a questionnaire which is followed by a telephone discussion with Teresa Wagner, program founder.
We encourage anyone interested in the program to read through the information on this web site, then email us at email@example.com with any questions, concerns or readiness to enroll. Your interest and participation is warmly welcomed!
1. The program is by intention a holistic integration of psychological and spiritual principles.
Just as many people may become stressed when attempting to integrate western and holistic veterinary information when opinions and recommended treatments are sometimes at odds, so too can grievers become confused by literature, classes or practitioners on how to cope with the loss of a pet that offer an approach that is exclusively psychologically or spiritually based. This is especially true when authors or teachers entrenched in one view criticize or discount the other view as if it has no merit whatsoever. This leaves emotionally distressed, vulnerable grievers wondering who or what to believe and what might help them.
A foundational belief in this program, and all of the classes in it, is that the most effective, satisfactory and long lasting approach to healing grief is an integrative and comprehensive one–one that includes both grounded, well researched psychological principles and support as well as acknowledgement of and exploration of the spiritual aspects of death, loss and grief which may include holistic healing modalities when they are of interest to and relevant to the person who is grieving.
There is perhaps never a more compelling time in our lives that arouses questions about our spiritual beliefs than the impending or actual physical death of a loved one. To exclude issues and questions about spirituality in classes about pet loss would be limiting and incomplete. On the other hand, to assume that strong spiritual beliefs in an afterlife and the ongoing life of a loved one’s spirit means there is no emotional grief work to be done (a common new age view) and need not be covered in grief healing education would also be a limited and incomplete view. Grief is both an emotional and spiritual process. When grieving we need loving and practical support for our emotional pain as well as support to explore our spiritual beliefs and how they may be impacting our healing. Psychological and spiritual principles and resources are presented in these classes, with great respect for both.
2. The actual perspectives of animals are acknowledged and valued.
Assumptions, generalizations, archetypes, stereotypes or fixed ideas about how animals experience illness, death, the afterlife are intentionally not part of this program. Instead, for students who are interested, dozens of real stories, cases and information obtained directly from actual conversations with animals about their experiences with illness, death, grief and life after death are included, discussed and explored in two elective classes:
Students who enroll and participate in the program may or may not believe in animal communication. As with all personal beliefs of our students, this is honored. The elective classes above are made available for both those who may already believe in animal communication and those who do not, to provide them with more in-depth information about what it is and how it best works so that when they work with clients who use such a service, they have a basic understanding of their clients’ experiences.
3. Values are not imposed in this program. We teach a client-centered approach, not a technique-centered or specific-belief-based approach to grief support.
Each journey of loss and grief is different, each griever’s needs unique, and the resources and philosophies most suited to help each of us varies. This program does not teach, impose or suggest that any particular belief system about end-of-life choices, animal death or the afterlife for animals is the only one or the right one. Based on a client-centered, empathy-based approach to counseling, healing and education, information is shared and exercises offered in the classes to support participants in making their own decisions and to clarify and feel more comfortable with their own values and beliefs.
Another foundational belief in this program is that choices and beliefs surrounding end-of-life and grief are deeply personal and sacred, and, that it is highly inappropriate and unethical for anyone supporting others through loss to attempt to impose their personal moral beliefs.
What we teach in the skill based classes in counseling and grief support is how to compassionately and non-judgmentally support others’ values and decisions and their explorations thereof, however similar or different the clients’ values may be from the counselors’ values. A very significant portion of the Role of Spirituality in the Helping Relationship class covers this important issue, as do the Code of Ethics in the program.
Rather than expect students to merely regurgitate the content of required texts, class handouts or an instructor’s perspective, our students are strongly encouraged to think for themselves, to clarify, write about and discuss with their class coach/mentor their personal perspectives about the class content and to integrate what they learn in the program with their own experiences.
For more information on the underlying philosophy of the program, read A Client-Centered, Empathy-Based Approach to Grief Counseling.
4. The program is comprehensive and in-depth
Classes have been designed to cover the topics far beyond a superficial or introductory review, and also include a focus on practical application and resources for continued value and tools beyond the completion of a particular class.
Requirements include 15 classes, 104 hours of class training (which could be slightly higher, depending on class electives chosen), over 1,200 pages of class handouts, 27 hours of private, one-one-one coaching/mentoring sessions with instructors, 15 written papers, 8 case studies submitted for review and 6 recorded counseling sessions submitted for peer and instructor review.
There are 15 instructors who teach the classes in the program, bringing diversity and breadth and depth of experience, perspective and knowledge to the program.
The required reading list encompasses over 16 books from the fields of loss, pet loss, grief healing, complicated grief, disenfranchised loss and grief, counseling psychology, client-centered counseling skills, trauma and post trauma stress, animal hospice, spirituality in the helping relationship, compassion fatigue, ethics and boundaries, and suggested reading lists for each class which include over 80 additional titles.
What is Distance Learning?
The established trend of distance learning (online studies, teleclasses, webinars, on-demand teleclasses, etc.) has changed the face of educational instruction throughout the world. Though nothing will ever replace the unique and special intimacy that is part of in-person workshops, distance learning allows us to participate in far more learning opportunities due to reduced time and money required for travel. We are grateful for the technology that allows us to come together so easily to focus on learning how to help heal the grief of those whose hearts are broken from the loss of beloved animals.
What is a Teleclass?
Teleclasses are live conference calls via your telephone or computer. Registered participants receive a call-in number and password in order to gain access to the virtual classroom at the scheduled class times. Please note that our teleclasses utilize a conference call phone number based in the United States. Though it is not a toll free number, several numbers are provided for different areas of North America and other countries. International students are welcome, and sometimes are able to call in via Skype. We have had many class participants from other countries, including Canada, South America, Australia, South Africa and European countries.
All the teleclasses are digitally recorded which allows participants to listen to class session even if they cannot attend a particular session live. Participants receive digital recordings of each class session in MP3 format at the completion of each class which can be downloaded for listening multiple times, at any time in the future.
Class handouts are provided in advance in a PDF file for all who take part in the class. The call-in phone number and links to handouts, are provided via e-mail about a week before the start of each teleclass. For the longer classes, there are assignments for pre-class reading and exercises. During a live teleclass participants are muted to prevent background household noise from disturbing the class. However, during question and answer periods and during the discussion of class exercises—which is part of every class—those who choose to speak are easily unmuted.
What is an On-Demand Class?
On-demand classes allow participants to listen to the audio, read the handouts and complete the class exercises at their own pace rather than attending a live class at a prescribed time. The registered participants of on-demand classes receive the same digital recordings of the audio portion of the classes and all of the same handouts.
The audio recordings are from live teleclass recordings, so they include the benefit of hearing questions and discussions with the instructor as the material is being covered with participants. Also, when taking any class for credit toward certification, including on-demand versions, the required private, one-on-one coaching session following each class provides ample opportunity for the participant to ask personalized questions of the instructor.
• Internet connection and an email account is needed to receive all correspondence for the classes and program.
• A printer to print out class handouts. Though handouts can also be viewed on screen, many of the class handouts include exercises which are best completed on printed pages. Some students send the link for the handouts to their local print shop (UPS stores do a great job with this) to be printed on 3-hole punched paper, then place the handouts in a 3-ring binder for easy access and organization of the material. If you do this, at the end of the program, you’ll have 15 class binders for very convenient, life-long access to the material.
• Participants must know, or learn, how to download PDF documents (for the handouts) and MP3 files (for the class recordings) on one’s computer. Because every computer is different, every operating system is different, and we are not tech experts, we are unable to coach individuals on how to operate their computers for these functions. We strongly advise that you do the following before taking any of the classes:
1. Download Adobe Reader (which is free) if you don’t already have it installed, which will allow you to open and read any PDF: http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/
2. If you are not familiar with how to download and find MP3 files on your computer, please seek help from a tech savvy family member, friend or computer consultant familiar with your computer. Or, Google “how to download MP3 files on my _____________” (fill in the brand of your computer and the name and version number of your operating system).
Are the classes held as live teleclasses or on-demand?
Both! The scheduling of live classes varies each year. Please visit the Class Listings page and check the Format column to see what live classes are scheduled for the near or far future. If you are on our mailing list you will automatically receive notification of any live classes (email us if you would like to be placed on the mailing list for classes).
All classes available on-demand within a week of the live offering. The availability of on-demand participation allows you to take classes at your own pace and at timing convenient to you. All on-demand classes include the full recording from a live class and all handouts.
Do program participants have access to dialog with instructors one on one?
Absolutely! Because this is a distance learning program, it is extremely important to us that there is private, continued contact between program participants and class instructors throughout the program.
This begins with the application questionnaire follow up phone conversation, and is followed by the 60-90 minute coaching and mentoring private sessions after every required and elective class, to continue personalized communication and support.
There are also coaching and mentoring sessions for each of the two required case studies groupings of four each, and for the recorded practice sessions. Including the application follow up phone conversation, and coaching mentoring sessions, there are 27+ hours of one-on-one private time with instructors.
In addition to these 27+ hours, program students and graduates are also eligible for the steeply discounted private coaching-mentoring sessions with program founder Teresa Wagner for occasions when they may want help with a particular case or career path support.
Since the founder of the program is both a grief counselor and a professional animal communicator, does that mean that this program promotes or assumes that animal communication must or should be part of pet loss grief healing?
Absolutely not. The program does not promote or suggest that animal communication, or any other specific tool or resource, is a necessary part of the pet loss healing process. Rather, reference to animal communication is offered in the program as one of many tools available to help people mourning the loss of their animals. Other healing arts tools offered as electives in the program include flower essences, guided meditation, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), journaling and art therapy.
As illustrated in The Helping Practitioner’s Pyramid, an important part of the program’s underlying philosophy, all healing tools are treated in the program as possible resources to be suggested to clients, and only after appropriate levels of empathy have been expressed with the client, and only when it seems relevant for the client and the client has assented to participating in the use of the technique or tool. This includes animal communication, any other healing arts tools, as well as the psychological tools offered in the required classes in the program such as the Expectations Model for Healing Guilt and Anger.
Due to increased mainstream acceptance and use of animal communication, there is high likelihood that pet loss grief practitioners will be working with clients who use this service or will discuss it. Because of this, two elective classes are available to students who want to explore and learn more about how animal communication works and how it may be a helpful resource for their clients:
• How Animal Communication Can Help During Illness, Hospice, Healing Grief and After Death
• The Animals’ Perspectives of Death, the Other Side and Coming Back
Additionally, one of the program’s required classes, Animal Hospice from the Perspective of the Veterinarian, the Animals and Their People, features a veterinarian specializing in hospice care, who shares ways we can help our animals and ourselves during the poignant time of end-of-life care, as well as stories from two professional animal communicators regarding their work with clients with animals in hospice care.
The case studies included in many of the class handouts are intentionally written from several practitioner contexts, i.e., from that of support group facilitators, veterinary staff, pet loss grief counselors with private practices, animal communicators, energy healers and other healing arts professionals. The varied context is included to both validate the backgrounds of diverse class participants and also to demonstrate how the skills of grief counseling are the same, no matter what the professional specialty of the practitioners helping clients with pet loss.