Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC


Dr. Risë VanFleet is the Founder of the International Institute for AAPT Studies. She is the President of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center, Inc. in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, an organization specializing in the training and supervision of child, family, and play therapy professionals as well as the provision of mental health services for children and families.  She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and The Pennsylvania State University.  A Licensed Psychologist in Pennsylvania, Dr. VanFleet is also a Certified Filial Therapy Therapist, Supervisor, and Instructor, a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.  She specializes in strengthening family relationships through play, and has subspecialties in chronic medical illness, disaster mental health, child/family trauma and attachment interventions using play therapy and Filial Therapy, and the training and involvement of animals in play therapy.  She also provides family-oriented non-aversive dog training and behavior consultation.

Dr. VanFleet brings 40 years of clinical, supervisory, and leadership experience in community mental health, health care, education, and independent practice settings to her workshops.  She has trained and supervised thousands of clinicians internationally.

Risë is the author of Filial Therapy: Strengthening Parent-Child Relationships Through Play (3rd ed.), A Parent’s Handbook of Filial Therapy (2nd ed.), coauthor of Child-Centered Play Therapy, coeditor of the Casebook of Filial Therapy, and author/photographer of The Faces of Play. Her book, Play Therapy with Kids & Canines, won a major writing award. Her  latest book, The Human Half of Dog Training: Collaborating with Clients to Get Results, was released in 2013. Her next projects include a book on disaster mental health, one on building relationships with therapy animals, and another on working with traumatized dogs. She has written dozens of chapters and articles, several of which have earned prestigious writing awards. Her materials have been used by professionals and families in over 70 countries, and her writings have been translated into several languages. She is featured on three best-selling play therapy DVDs: Child-Centered Play Therapy, Overcoming Resistance: Engaging Parents in Play Therapy, and Introduction to Filial Therapy, as well as an American Psychological Association DVD, Filial Play Therapy.

In 2013, Dr. VanFleet was the recipient of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association’s Distinguished Contributions to the Science and Profession of Psychology Award. She has also been the inaugural honoree for three major play therapy and training awards: the Bernard G. and Louise F. Guerney Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice and Training in Filial Therapy (The Association for Filial and Relationship Enhancement Methods), the Play Therapy Professional Education and Training Award (The Association for Play Therapy), and the Louise and Bernard Guerney Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Play Therapy (Pennsylvania Association for Play Therapy). She is the founder of the International Institute for AAPT Studies,  International Collaborative on Play Therapy and the Filial Therapy Forum, and a Past President/Board Chair of the Association for Play Therapy.

Risë is also involved in the development, practice, ethics, and research of Animal Assisted Play Therapy, and regularly works with one of her dogs in Canine Assisted Play Therapy. She is the Director of the Playful Pooch Program, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (IAABC), an Approved Evaluator for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® program, and a frequent contributor to the Association for Pet Dog Trainers’ Chronicle of the Dog.  Her Play Therapy with Kids & Canines book was the 2008 winner of the Planet Dog Foundation’s Sit-Speak-Act Canine Service Award given by the Dog Writers Association of America. She also received 2009 and 2011 DWAA Maxwell Awards for best magazine series related to dogs and best training article in any magazine, respectively. Another article won the DWAA’s Friends of Rescue Special Award for 2013. In addition to her work in the play/family therapy field, Dr. VanFleet is President of VanFleet Associates, an organizational development firm, an accomplished pianist, and an award-winning nature photographer specializing in Alaskan wildlife.

Risë can be contacted at:

Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC
International Institute of Animal Assisted Play Therapy Studies
PO Box 613, Boiling Springs, PA 17007 USA

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