Ingrid Stephan, Institute of Social Learning with Animals – Winner of the 2019 William McCulloch award for outstanding achievements of practitioners and educators

Animal-assisted intervention at the Institute for Social Learning with Animals: The important and successful capabilities of farm animals and pets in AAI

At the recent IAHAIO international triennial at Green Chimneys in April 2019, Ingrid was warmly congratulated by IAHAIO and all attendees on this prestigious award and remarkable career achievements. Ingrid gave a presentation at the conference which included an overview of the Institute of Social Learning with Animals and different working areas such as the further education for professionals in AAI, our journal ”tiergestützte“ (“animal assisted“), the offer of lectures/consultations for other establishments and our practical work which includes the “short therapy weeks” for clients with serious communication difficulties and their families, and for soldiers suffering PTSD and their families, as well as mobile AAI with pets and farm animals.

An important topic in this talk was the presentation of the many different opportunities and appropriateness for working with farm animals (such as chicken, cows, sheep, goats,…) even in view of ethical issues and what possibilities animals can bring to therapeutic and pedagogical settings – often having a similar biography as our clients, and just aren’t “perfect”.  The importance of good animal welfare practices was highlighted.

Below are some highlights from her career.

Ingrid Stephan, dipl. Social Worker, is an outstanding pioneer of both animal-assisted education and practical work. For over 24 years her “Institute for Social Learning with Animals” ( ) in Lindwedel, Germany, has trained over 1300 qualified, German-speaking practitioners from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Luxemburg. Since 2001 her Institute has offered a continuing education program in 55 courses (the first to be accredited by the International Society for Animal Assisted Therapy in 2008) for (social-) pedagogues, therapists, psychologists, medical doctors, and geriatric nurses. Graduates are trained in theory and practice how to integrate domesticated animals (both companion and farm animals) professionally in their daily work.

In her work, Ingrid Stephan practices a unique balance between focusing on her human clients and on the welfare of her animal partners. Indeed, socialization and housing of these animals meets the highest international standards. This is one reason why so many TV-producers have chosen her institute to report on the positive effects of animal-assisted therapy and education. She has given many newspaper, radio and magazine interviews and is truly an ambassador of the benefits of AAA and AAT, and the One Health approach, with very high media visibility.

Together with her highly qualified staff, Ingrid Stephan has developed and offers since 2003, one-week “short therapy weeks” for clients with serious communication disorders (and their families), and since 2013 in cooperation with the counseling services of the German army, “short therapy weeks” for soldiers and their families (40 to date) suffering from PTSD. Further, she offers very popular “mobile animal-assisted activities” to social and health institutions with a selection of the institute’s animals and activities aimed specifically at their clients in small groups in their usual surroundings. These include regular visits to improve sensory abilities in cooperation with the state school for blind and visually impaired persons, the cochlear-implant center of the German deaf agency, and diverse special education schools, integrative kindergartens and nursing homes around Hannover.

Since 2006 Ingrid Stephan and her Institute for Social Learning with Animals is the publisher (4 issues per year) of the only German-language journal covering the topics: research, practice, psychology of the human-animal relationship, animal protection/welfare and “news” of current events and issues in the field of animal assisted interventions.