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Pet Therapy

*Our Pet Therapy program is currently paused, but will be resumed soon. We are currently in search of a rescue partner for this program. Please email us at for more information.

Building Empathy and Compassion Through Interactions with Animals

Pet therapy is an activity that children may be prescribed as part of their Person-Centered Plan at our Charlotte Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF). Through this therapeutic activity, children are guided to interact with the animal. Pet therapy may include brushing, petting, and playing to instill positive relationship behaviors.

Children who participate in animal therapy programs learn trust, empathy, and compassion. Spending time with animals provides relief and comfort to children with mental and behavioral health challenges.

Through guided interactions, children are able to form and focus on positive relationships with both the animals and the handler.

Bark and Heal Program

Bark and Heal is a unique treatment program designed to provide healing to the children of Alexander Youth Network through compassion and positive reinforcement of canine training.

The Bark and Heal program pairs youth in our programs with rescued dogs who are in need of skills training prior to adoption.

Over the course of an 8-week program, children learn methods of positive reinforcement and repetition. They teach their dogs basic obedience and house training skills while socializing with other trainers, volunteers, and dogs. Through the companionship of their dogs, children develop trust and empathy. They find acceptance, gain confidence, and build self-esteem through their dedicated responsibilities in the program. The Bark and Heal program enables children and their dogs to achieve rehabilitation toward long-term success.

Children and their canine companions meet three days a week to work on:

  • Relationship building skills
  • Self-soothing and self-regulation skills
  • Listening skills
  • Communication skills
  • Healthy detachment and pet adoption
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