Meet the Counselors

Heather Payne, LMHC, RPT, CAAPT 

Heather received a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University, Sarasota. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida (MH#12301), a Registered Play Therapist, and is one of only two Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapists in the state of Florida certified through the International Institute of Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Heather works with children, adolescents, couples, and families and has received extra training in crisis intervention, grief and loss. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, the Association for Death Educators and Counselors, and the Association for Play Therapy. She is also a Registered Nurse, and a Nationally Certified Counselor through the NBCC.

Heather uses a client centered approach to individualize each session to the client’s particular needs. She incorporates directive and non-directive play therapy, expressive techniques, and cognitive behavioral techniques depending on the age of the client and their counseling goals.  Heather’s certified therapy dog Griffin is an integral part of sessions with clients who request animal assisted therapy.  Heather is also a trained Prepare Enrich facilitator and offers premarital counseling for interested couples.

Heather is also the Coordinator for the Golisano Children’s Hospital of SW Florida’s Pediatric and Pregnancy Bereavement Program. She has taught locally on Bereavement, Grief and Loss, Ethics, and Self Care.  She co facilitates the Sweet Child of Mine Pregnancy /Infant Loss Support Group, and is also a volunteer facilitator with Valerie’s House for grieving children and their parents.  She volunteers for Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue, and is training to become a counselor for Pawsitive Kid’s Camp



Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapy Dog

Abbey, a lemon beagle, is the first therapy dog employed by Delta Family Counseling. She is known as the “boss” around the practice. Abbey started at the practice at its original location in 2006. Abbey’s first steps into “working” were by accident, as she was having separation anxiety after Tara moved to Cape Coral and Abbey cried all day while home alone. Abbey came to the office and was invited into session by several clients and this is where Tara noticed that Abbey had a natural ability to help clients.

Tara and Abbey began to research if there was such a thing as a “Mental Health” therapy dog and the training began. Since that point, Abbey has provided services to many clients. Abbey is proud to wear her “work” bandanna and be in the office with the clients and fellow therapists. Abbey has taught Tara many things about compassion fatigue through her work, which inspired the workshop that Tara teaches “Life can be Ruff….Lessons from Therapy Dogs!” Abbey is also a rescue and was adopted into her forever family of the Moser’s from a rescue group in Orlando.



Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapy Dog

More info on Griffin coming soon! He is Heather’s AAPT dog in training


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