August 30, 2021
Evening Under the Stars Auction
August 6, 2021
Evening Under the StarsEvening Under the Stars Enjoy an evening under the stars supporting a statewide nonprofit that provides at-risk children with the healing benefits of therapy animals. Join host, Renee Dinino of iheart radio with a night of beer and cider tasting, food trucks, music and mo...
July 14, 2021
Fiona The Therapy Dog
Team Soul Friends
Alexa joined Soul Friends in 2022 after moving back to her home state of CT. Alexa graduated from Tulane University in 2014 alongside her now retired therapy dog with a Masters of Social Work and specialized certificate in Disaster Mental Health and Trauma Studies. Alexa works primarily with children, teens and families and has worked in a variety of settings including extended day treatment, psychiatric hospitals and public schools. Alexa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has extensive training in play therapy, DBT, therapeutic crisis intervention and animal assisted therapy. Alexa believes strongly in the power of play and respecting individual differences and sensory needs in therapy and enjoys utilizing creative interventions with her clients.
Judy came to Soul Friends in 2021 as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Judy has been working in the field of animal assisted therapy since 2017. She is a certified Eagala practitioner providing Equine work and a registered therapy animal evaluator for Pet Partners. During the summer she is the Humane Education coordinator for an at risk youth sleep away summer camp. Judy is an active foster home for rescue dogs. When appropriate, Judy is accompanied in sessions with her therapy dog and foster failure, Ruby. Ruby has been a registered therapy dog since 2017 through Pet Partners.
Judy graduated from New York University with her Master in Social Work in 2003 and a certification in Animal Behavior and Conservation from Hunter college in 2021. She has worked within various populations over the years from children, adolescents to adults in various settings including residential, outpatient and inpatient. Judy is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, solution brief focused therapy and certified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. She has experience with treating individuals who have co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, as well as trauma. Judy is bilingual in Spanish.
Nicole is our Equine Specialist and Licensed Master’s Level Social Worker for the Meriden Location. Nicole is a Certified Equine Interaction Professional – Mental Health (CEIP-MH), and has been Level 2 trained in Natural Lifemanship’s model of Trauma-Focused Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). Outside of Soul Friends you can find her researching the outcomes and ethics of EAP with an emphasis on equine welfare, volunteering at her local horse rescue, and playing with her chocolate lab Buckley.
Lauren came to Soul Friends in 2019 as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Lauren set a career goal of working in animal assisted therapy while completing her undergraduate degree in psychology. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2016. Lauren has primarily worked with children and adolescents in a variety of settings including residential, in-home, outpatient and school. Lauren just completed the certification process with her rescue dog Fiona in November 2019.
Christie joined Soul Friends as a per diem clinician in 2020, providing play therapy and family therapy in the Waterbury location and Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy in Meriden. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) as well as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT). Christie received her MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fairfield University in 2015 and then went on to receive her Play Therapy Credential by obtaining specialized education (WCSU), training, and supervised experience in utilizing play as a medium to support kids in uncovering and working through various mental health challenges. Christie believes that traditional talk therapy can be challenging for many children and has found play to be a more natural form of communication with undeniable therapeutic strengths. Christie enjoys working together collaboratively with the family system in an effort to support family members in creating sustainable change and increasing functional patterns of interaction. She has experience working in Extended Day Treatment (EDT) programs where she provided group, individual, and family therapy to children experiencing significant emotional and behavioral concerns. She rescued her playful puppy, Ziva, in 2020 and hopes to have her become a registered therapy dog.
Alissa Wurtzel,a licensed clinical social worker , is a graduate of UCONN School of Social Work Alissa has been a clinician at Soul Friends for over 10 years bringing children and families her expertise in trauma-informed work and EMDR. She has partnered with two of her therapy dogs and has specialized training in Gestalt therapy in equine facial items psychotherapy
Kate brings to Soul Friends more than 30 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 16 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. Kate is a member of EAGALA, and a certified Level 2 Practitioner. In the year 2008-2009, she was selected to be a Annie E. Casey Foundation Nonprofit Leadership Foundation to assist in her vision to bring Soul Friends, Inc to all the children in need of Connecticut.
Jodi first came to Soul Friends as a student intern. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2002 with a major is Psychology and Sociology. She graduated from UCONN in 2007 with her MSW. Jodi is the Director of a Therapeutic Foster Care Agency and also oversees their PPSP program. Her specializations include; child welfare, divorce, trauma early in life and autism. Jodi has a love of animals and rescued her first dog a few years ago. Jodi works for Soul Friends part time and oversees of Come, Follow Me! Program.
Stephanie Harris is a psychotherapist and addiction specialist. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). She is training her English yellow Labrador to be a Canine Good Citizen. She is also training to work with equine assisted interventions.
Stephanie is certified as a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Counselor and she has worked extensively with individuals who have experienced trauma. In addition to working with individuals with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Stephanie has experience with treating individuals who have cooccurring disorders like anxiety and depression, as well as those who struggle with loss and spirituality. Stephanie has experience working with individuals who are involved with the legal system and the Department of Children and Families.
Animal assisted therapy at Soul Friends
Children who have suffered from a death in the family, trauma, or kids with special needs or emotional challenges can visit Soul Friends. There are a variety of programs that are offered based on the child’s needs.