Sharon is a licensed occupational therapist and is continuing to develop her clinical skills through the pursuit of a doctoral degree in occupational therapy (OTD) at the University of Southern California. Sharon is completing her doctoral residency at Painted Brain, which includes designing the structure of Painted Brain’s outpatient occupational therapy services, establishing a network of referral sources, enhancing Painted Brain’s occupational therapy student education program, and increasing the understanding of society that occupational therapy contributes a unique value to mental health services.
Sharon completed her undergraduate studies in exercise science, health, and psychology at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. Prior to graduating, Sharon volunteered as a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that breeds and trains service dogs for individuals with visual impairments. Following graduation, she and her own dog became registered with Therapy Dogs International, Inc. and began a 10-year career in providing animal-assisted activities to enhance social participation and well-being in such populations as the elderly, hospitalized, homeless, and children with developmental disabilities. These experiences laid the foundation for Sharon’s career in dog training, while also contributing to her profound appreciation for the abilities of all individuals to participate in society in meaningful ways.
Upon relocating to Los Angeles in 2005, Sharon assisted in the development of and subsequently managed a canine boarding and training facility. Sharon’s work at this facility included the establishment of an internship program to facilitate the development of skills and professionalism in aspiring dog trainers, and directing Lend A Paw, a program that trained dog-owner teams to provide animal-assisted activities to special populations. During her time with Lend A Paw, Sharon facilitated the growth of the program from 3 volunteer teams serving 2 facilities, to over 60 volunteer teams serving 16 facilities around Los Angeles, including the LA Mission, the Jewish Home for the Aging, Edelman Children’s Court, and ECF Kayne Eras School.
In 2012, Sharon launched Holistic Dog Expert, a private dog training business that facilitates enhanced dog-owner relationships through a client-centered and evidence-based lens. Starting this business supported Sharon’s journey into the world of occupational therapy, while also facilitating the development of Sharon’s skills in assisting individuals in achieving optimal health through engagement in activities that they want to do, need to do, or are expected to do. Sharon’s unique combination of experiences in program and business development; expertise in cognition, sensory processing, meaningful engagement in everyday living, and human-canine interactions; and an insightful perspective on individual strengths and motivations contributes to the mission of Painted Brain to assist individuals with mental illness in realizing their full potential as positively contributing members of society.