Sandra B Barker, PhD, LPC, NCC

Dr. Sandy Barker is sitting with two shelties.

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Founding Director, and Senior Advisor
(804) 628-2532

Dr. Sandra Barker led the effort in the original formation of CHAI, was chosen to be CHAI’s first Director, and has made immeasurable contributions to CHAI and its mission.  Despite having retired Dr. Barker maintains an active presence at CHAI, and with her over three decades of HAI experience, provides invaluable guidance and support.  While originally skeptical of being able to combine her dual passions for animals and for mental health counseling, Dr. Barker succeeded in synthesizing these passions by becoming a pioneer within the field of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI).  As a therapist, Dr. Barker also possesses a rare specialization in companion animal bereavement and was responsible for creating and running CHAI’s Pet Loss Support Group.  During her 18 years as CHAI’s Director, Dr. Barker has earned dozens of honors and awards, dozens of grants and contracts, and has routinely engaged in community education – all while continuing to see her mental health clients, conducting AAI research, teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels, remaining actively involved in other HAI-focused charities such as the Darlington County Humane Society and Irish Therapy Dogs, and continuing to build and develop CHAI.  Dr. Barker is an accomplished academic, having published over 50 peer-reviewed HAI journal articles and book chapters.  Dr. Barker also takes public education seriously and has been featured in, or interviewed as an expert on HAI for, over 200 articles including articles in the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the Wall Street JournalPsychology TodayTime Magazine and other prestigious periodicals.  Dr. Barker has also delivered over 100 major HAI presentations, including several keynotes, and has presented at veterinary, grief, and anthrozoology conferences, and has presented to policy makers such as US Surgeon General David Satcher.  In 2018 Dr. Barker led the Department of Psychiatry Search Committee that was tasked with finding a successor to lead the Center and assume the Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction; this process was completed in 2019 when Dr. Nancy Gee accepted the chair and became CHAI’s new Director.