Soul Friends

Soul Friends

Healing the hearts of children one wagging tail at a time...





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Kate Nicoll, MSW, LCSW - President  (pictured with Muffin and Bear)

Kate brings to Soul Friends more than 18 years of clinical experience working with families coping with grief, trauma and illness. Kate earned her MSW from Smith College and her BSW from Elms College; as well, she completed a graduate certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy and Education from DePaul University. Kate’s extensive mental health experience includes work with inpatient medical and psychiatric hospitals, children’s clinic, private practice, homecare agencies and hospice. She has presented across the country on the power of body-centered psychotherapy and animal assisted interventions for children. She has specialized in working with children with severe trauma and grief – and has partnered with community agencies and the state in adding the comfort of an animal partner to specific treatment plans. Over the past five years, Kate has created five group curriculum based programs for children that has consistently demonstrated through outcome measures and research positive benefits for children including : increased eye contact for children with autism and ADHD; increased hopefulness for children living with trauma and improved peer relationships for teens. As the principal investigator of a year long humane education study, Kate and her partners demonstrated the benefits of adding therapy animals in a classroom setting in a published journal article in Society and Animals.   Kate is the author of Soul Friends: Finding Healing with Animals and A Therapy Dog at Work and Play; Teaching Children about Body Clues.  Along with her four children, Kate shares her love with seven animal companions at home including three Delta registered therapy dogs. Kate is a member of the Delta Society, EAGALA, NASW, the International Society for Group Therapy and Roots and Shoots program. 



Allison VanHof Behnke, MA, MSW -  Program Manager (pictured with Hailey)

Alli is the Program Coordinator of Horses Inspire!, Soul Friend's therapeutic equine program.  She graduated with a Masters in Child Development from Tufts University and will receive her MSW from UCONN in Spring 2007.  Alli brings professional experience in the field of early childhood mental health, as well as training in the field of equine assisted mental health through Horsepower of NH and EAGALA.  She is an avid horsewoman and loves watching horses bring healing and learning to children in need.  Alli and her husband share their home and love with two dogs, a horse and a rabbit.

Sherie Chapman, MSW, LCSW (pictured with Alli and Hailey)

Sherie is a lifelong animal lover who grew up on a small family farm.  She graduated in 2000 from Springfield College with an MSW.  For the last seven years, she has worked as a clinician at the Middlesex Hospital Family Advocacy Program; as well as a consultant to local day care centers.  She enjoys coming to work with her animal partners:  Vader a guinea pig and Caden, a rescued beagle mix.

Bonnie Cecarelli, MSW, LCSW

Bonnie comes to work with her canine partner, Lola, a rescued pointer mix.  Bonnie has worked as a social worker at the West Haven VA for the last few years.  She has been providing animal assisted visits across central Connecticut for many years.  Bonnie brings to Soul Friends a special interest in working with children with acute and chronic physical illnesses. 

Jodi Teitelbaum, MSW

Jodi first came to Soul Friends has a student intern.  She graduated from UCONN in 2007.  Currently, she is the coordinator of therapeutic mentoring at Community Residences, Inc. in Southington.  She works part-time at Soul Friends, particularly assisting with our Come, Follow Me! program for special needs children. 

Yvonne Burke, MSW, LCSW

Yvonne has just joined the Soul Friends staff this Winter 2007.  She works for ACES in North Haven.  She will be seeing children and adolescents in our Wallingford office with her two canine partner pug puppies. 

Vanessa Maznio, MSW

Vanessa graduated from SCSU in Spring 2006.  She was also a student intern at Soul Friends.  Vanessa loves to help families develop meaningful behavioral plans and will be collaborating with the clinical staff as needed.


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