ADAPT Program

ADAPT Program

Animal-Assisted Therapy in Jacksonville

According to research — and what we see every day at Nemours Children’s Health, Jacksonville — when pet therapy animals visit, healing gets a little easier. The smiles on the faces of the kids in our care seems to back that up. Our patients and their families have a better experience overall, and their results are often better, too. That’s why we have long offered visits by registered therapy animal teams to our patients in our Animal-Assisted Intervention program.

As part of a new Implementation Science Research initiative in partnership with the University of North Florida, Nemours will soon be able to offer our patients and families the enhanced clinical service of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Animal-Assisted Therapy involves specially trained and licensed medical, mental health or other service providers working with qualified animals in each child’s treatment process, along with local expert volunteer animal handlers, to help with kids’ emotional growth and learning.


The Assisted Dog and Pony Therapy (ADAPT) Program at Nemours Children's helps address a variety of kids’ mental and emotional health needs, including anxiety, anger issues, grief and loss, behavioral and family relationship concerns, communication difficulties, depression and emotional adjustment to medical issues.

How Does It Work?

Nemours is among the first pediatric health care organizations in the United States to date that will offer this innovative approach to clinical care.

Animal-Assisted Therapy at Nemours is integrated throughout our care by our behavioral health providers (who have specialized training and experience).

AAT is incorporated into a child’s treatment plan with specific, individualized goals.

Unlike free or voluntary “visiting” programs, AAT is paid for by health insurance as a part of clinical care.

About the Team

Our team consists of licensed mental health professionals — including psychology, social work and APRN providers — who have earned graduate certificates in Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling from the University of North Florida Brooks College of Health. They partner with a Pet Partners-registered dog or with Pet Partners-registered animal and handler volunteer teams including dogs and horses.

Meet the ADAPT Team

Christine Crews MSN, PMHNP-BC — Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Nicole Kahhan, PhD — Pediatric Psychologist

Gina Malejko, APRN — Family Mental Health-Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Erin Pfeffer, LCSW — Clinical Social Worker

Jenny Pfieffer, APRN — Nurse Manager

Lisa Schilling, PhD — Pediatric Psychologist

Carlene Taylor, EdD — UNF Clinical Faculty and Licensed Mental Health Counselor