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Elizabeth Kjellstrand Hartwig, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Kjellstrand Hartwig & Holly

Elizabeth Kjellstrand Hartwig, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC-S, RPT-S, is an Associate Professor in the Professional Counseling Program at Texas State University where she teaches animal-assisted counseling, play therapy, and marriage and family therapy courses. She is the founder and director of the Texas State University Animal-Assisted Counseling (AAC) Academy, a professional training program that promotes the human-animal bond through the study and practice of animal-assisted counseling. 

Play Therapy

Solution-Focused Play Therapy

As a Registered Play Therapist - Supervisor, Dr. Hartwig is actively involved in scholarship, professional organizations, and clinical work related to working with children and youth. Author of the book, Solution-Focused Play Therapy: A Strengths-Based Clinical Approach to Play Therapy, she believes that children have strengths and competencies that can help them find solutions and achieve clinical goals. She currently serves on the Association for Play Therapy Board of Directors and is a Past President of the Texas Association for Play Therapy. Her research in play therapy has focused on strengths-based approaches and interventions for helping children and youth. She has written on puppet play therapy, using sandtray in supervision, and completed two mixed method studies on effective approaches for youth in schools. In 2017 she received the TAPT Nancy Guillory Award for Outstanding Service in Play Therapy.

Animal-Assisted Counseling

Canine-Assisted Interventions front cover

In 2016, she developed the Texas State University Animal-Assisted Counseling (AAC) Academy. The AAC Academy is a professional training program that promotes the human-animal bond through the study and practice of animal-assisted counseling. The AAC Academy offers a series of three intensive trainings for graduate students and professionals to earn introductory and advanced training in animal-assisted counseling. 

Dr. Hartwig pioneered the first involvement of therapy dogs on the Texas State University campus for teaching and research through a study on canine-assisted therapy with adolescents in the 2014-2015 school year. To date, she has written three peer-reviewed and published articles on animal-assisted counseling and human-animal interaction. In 2019 she co-authored a book with Dr. John-Tyler Binfet titled Canine-Assisted Interventions: A Comprehensive Guide to Credentialing Therapy Dog Teams. She's currently pursuing several research projects in animal-assisted counseling.


In addition to her research, she has presented at local, state, national and international conferences. Here are some of her recent and upcoming presentations:

  • Solution-Focused Play Therapy: The Magic of Strengths-Based Play, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Multicultural Play Therapy Conference, Virtual presentation, 2022
  • Solution-Focused Play Therapy: Small Steps Can Lead to Big Changes, American Counseling Association Conference, Atlanta, GA, 2022
  • Puppet Play Therapy: Play Therapy in the Palm of Your Hand, Association for Play Therapy Conference, Little Rock, AR, 2021
  • Puppet Play Therapy International Seminar Series, International Puppet Therapy Training, Virtual presentation, 2021
  • Promoting Client Wellness in Animal-Assisted Counseling Through Measurable Standards, International Society for Anthrozoology, Virtual presentation based in Liverpool, UK, 2020
  • Animal-Assisted School Counseling: How Animal Counseling Teams can Improve Student Success and Wellbeing, International Society for Anthrozoology, Virtual presentation based in Liverpool, UK, 2020
  • Taking Off the Vest: When Should a Therapy Dog be Retired? International Society for Anthrozoology, Virtual presentation based in Liverpool, UK, 2020
  • Supervision in the Sand: Four Approaches for Using Sand Therapy in Supervision, World Association of Sand Therapy Professionals Conference, Virtual presentation, 2020
  • Building Resiliency in Children through Animal-Assisted Counseling and Family Play Therapy, Children's Mental Health Symposium, Tulsa, OK, 2020
  • Canine-Assisted Play Therapy with Children and Teens, Association for Play Therapy, Dallas, TX, 2019
  • Animal-Assisted Play Therapy, International Play Therapy Study Group, Wroxton, UK, 2019
  • There's a Dog in My Session: Practitioner Perspectives in Animal-Assisted Counseling, International Society for Anthrozoology, Sydney, Australia, 2018
  • Play Therapy with Teens and Tweens, Association for Play Therapy, Minneapolis, MN, 2017
  • A Systematic Review of Online Canine-Assisted Therapy Program Screening Tools, International Society for Anthrozoology, Davis, CA, 2017
  • Enhancing the Evidence Base of Canine-Assisted Therapy Research, International Association for Human Animal Interaction Organizations Conference, Paris, France 2016 
  • Canine-Assisted Play Therapy: Hope and Healing with Kids and Canines, Association for Play Therapy, Atlanta, GA, 2015
Pawsitive Counseling logo

Dr. Hartwig has a private practice where she works with her canine partner, Holly, in New Braunfels, TX called Pawsitive Counseling, LLC

Office Phone: (512) 245-3757