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Empowering Youth at the Therapeutic Ranch

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IHAC Comm. Team

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Shanti Hill-Gauer, MSW '13, Animal-Assisted Social Work

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Shanti Hill-Gauer graduated from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) in 2013 with a focus on high-risk youth and the Animal-Assisted Social Work (AASW) certificate. Hill-Gauer chose to study at GSSW because of the unique AASW certificate, which brought together her passion for humans and non-human animals.

“My experience with GSSW and IHAC was invaluable in pursuing my professional passion and vision. Specifically, my second-year internship offered me boots on the ground experience not only as an animal-assisted clinician but also offered me a business model for incorporating animals into a therapy practice,” Hill-Gauer says.

After completing her MSW and AASW certificate, Hill-Gauer pursued her LCSW in California and had the skills and experience necessary to actualize her professional goals. She is now the owner and clinical director of the Wish Fulfilling Tree – Therapeutic Ranch. The Wish Fulfilling Tree provides animal-assisted therapy services to youth in Sonoma County, California. They currently have two clinicians and a variety of co-therapists including therapy dogs, therapy horses, and therapy goats and sheep. Hill-Gauer elaborates, “We work with youth ages 6 through young adulthood addressing a variety of mental health needs including specializing in complex trauma, anxiety, and grief and loss. Our mission is to empower youth through animal-assisted connection.”

woman smiling and standing between two horses at a therapeutic ranch