Meet The Team

Pink clouds in front of a purple sky

Heidi Schilling, Psy.D.

Founder of Alpenglow Counseling, LLC
Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Heidi Schilling, Psy.D.


I hold the view that when we know better, we do better. Many of us have not been taught how to regulate our emotions, the ways in which trauma may impact us, and how to foster healthy parent-child relationships built on connection. Part of my goal as a therapist is to help you understand the roots of your behavior or the behavior of your child, diminish shame, and learn mode adaptive behaviors.

You are a unique individual with many facets. Honoring all that you are is an important element in the therapeutic journey. Therefore, I take a holistic and individualized approach to healing. Throughout treatment, I emphasize the value of integrating various aspects of your life into therapy, in a manner that feels comfortable to you. Alongside traditional talk therapy, I believe in the inclusion of varied therapeutic methods in the treatment process, such as nature-based activities, artistic expression, physical movement, expressive writing, or interaction with animals.

While therapy can be challenging and painful, I hope you will find working with me feels safe, empowering, and hopeful. I think you will experience me as authentic, personable, and relatable. I integrate humor when it is fitting, because, let's face it, even in moments of grief and pain, there can be elements of humor and laughter. I will challenge you as needed, always keeping you at the center of the process.

I firmly hold the belief that our behaviors do not define us and we all have the capacity to change. Furthermore, we all desire to be heard, seen, and understood. Every individual deserves to experience safety, fulfillment, and a sense of self-worth.


Growing up in Alaska profoundly shaped my identity and who I am today. I spent most of my formative years outside, fostering a deep love for nature and animals. Alaska’s unique setting facilitated a sense of adventure, the development of lifelong connections, and a desire to understand and support others. Because of that sense of adventure, I left Alaska to attend college and graduate school. Upon completing my education, I decided to move to Austin to start my career. I moved here without a job, partner, or social network. It was either going to be a total disaster or the coolest thing I have ever done. Luckily, ten years later, I count it as one of my best decisions ever!

Outside of work, I most likely am found outdoors, hiking, running, or in the proximity of a body of water. I like to unwind by reading, going to the movies, and watching crime shows or guilty-pleasure TV. I have a weakness for hamburgers, tacos, Dr. Pepper, and anything sweet. Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and of course, Denali!


While I have the education and certifications, I believe that my connection with you and your trust in me are the the most important aspects of therapy. I aim to create a warm and validating space so you can find relief and power in sharing your story.

Integrated Modalities


While I have the education and certifications, I believe that my connection with you and your trust in me are the the most important aspects of therapy. I aim to create a warm and validating space so you can find relief and power in sharing your story.

Who I Help


I specialize in working with children and adolescents who have been labeled as "difficult,” those who have become entangled in the juvenile justice system, and those who are perceived as defiant and disruptive. Many of the youth who I help also contend with challenges related to anxiety, emotional dysregulation, and changes in mood. Additionally, I work with youth who identify as neurodivergent or who have ADHD or are on the autism spectrum.

I also focus on providing support to children and adolescents who have faced various forms of trauma, whether it is a past traumatic experience or ongoing, current stressors. I work with youth who have endured various forms of adversity, including abuse, neglect, bullying, medical trauma, divorce, family or community violence, family substance abuse, natural disasters, or the pain of loss and grief. Trauma can manifest in a multitude of ways, each child's experience is unique, and the impact of trauma can vary widely. Effective support and intervention are essential to help children heal and cope with the aftermath of traumatic events.


Parents come to me in search of answers, often feeling on the brink of giving up. They have frequently exhausted numerous avenues, fully aware of their child's inherent value, yet struggle to find joy in their relationship due to challenging behavioral patterns. I am dedicated to helping parents/guardians gain a deeper understanding of their child's behavior, provide strategies to best support their child, and help them navigate the challenges of raising children effectively.

Adults with Trauma

I specialize in working with adults who want to heal from current or childhood trauma. Many of my adult clients often share common experiences, such as challenges in forming and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, struggles with emotional regulation, episodes of anger over seemingly minor issues, or a persistent sense of unhappiness with life, even when external circumstances appear to be generally positive.

A lot of my adult clients may have been labeled as "difficult" children during childhood, bear the weight of self-imposed shame, or struggle with maladaptive coping skills. These individuals may be grappling with ongoing challenges that can be traced back to their childhood, yet they often lack clarity on how to address these issues or enact adaptive change. My experience in working with children provides me with a unique perspective on assisting adults in their journey to heal from childhood trauma and enables me to understand the intergenerational impact of such experiences.

When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
- Fred Rogers
When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
- Fred Rogers


Denali the husky, Dr. Heidi Schilling's dog.Dr. Heidi Schilling's dog, Denali.

About Denali

Denali is a husky mix who was born in May of 2021. My husband and I adopted her when she was four months old from 405 Animal Rescue in Oklahoma. Since moving to Austin, she has made a lot of human and dog friends and likes to socialize with all of them. When meeting new adults, Denali can sometimes be a bit aloof or slow to warm up (I have found a lot of my adult clients resonate with this) but once you are part of her pack, she loves hard.

Denali has a lot of energy and likes to play. She enjoys tug, fetching the ball, puzzles, finding hidden treats, obstacle courses, and learning tricks. She enjoys sunning in her sandbox at home, hiking, being on squirrel patrol, and going to the Watering Bowl, which is a staffed dog park. In 2023, Denali became a “big sister” to a human sister and she is very proud of this role.

Denali works with anyone who will give her treats or puzzles. She shines in sessions that are active and/or interactive. On occasion, she will cuddle up with clients on the couch or chew a bone at their feet while they talk.

Augmentative Interspecies Communication (AIC)

Denali is learning to communicate using sound board Augmentative Interspecies Communication (AIC) devices, commonly known as “buttons.” We have seen many benefits to Denali using her buttons, including enhancing her ability to express her needs, fostering a stronger connection with us, and enabling humans to gain a better understanding of her preferences. Given Denali’s vocal nature as a husky mix, providing her with “words” has reduced vocalizations. This is due to the buttons facilitating more precise communication, thereby fulfilling her needs more effectively. Consequently, Denali will have access to buttons during therapy sessions.

Denali enjoys coming to work and will occasionally press her “work” button if she has not been to the office in a while. With confidence, I can say she cannot wait to meet you!

Denali the dog and her Augmented Interspecies Communication devices.


Integrated Modalities

Animal-Assisted Counseling FAQs

What is AAC?

AAC is a goal-directed process in which a trained therapy animal works in partnership with a mental health practitioner to help clients resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve growth using experiential and expressive techniques. AAC can be used with all ages in a variety of therapeutic settings (Hartwig, 2018).

What does AAC look like in therapy sessions?

AAC involves an animal being integrated into the client’s treatment plan to reach clinical objectives. This is achieved by including the therapy animal in various interventions, such as the client teaching the animal a new skill or the therapy animal providing comfort and support when the client is sharing something vulnerable or challenging (Hartwig, 2018). Denali and I work together as a team to help clients of all ages in individual, family, or group sessions.

What are the benefits of AAC?

There are numerous potential benefits for clients participating in AAC. In addition to providing an opportunity to discuss and address presenting issues, research on AAC has indicated various other potential benefits, including:

  • Decreasing depression and anxiety (Hartwig, 2017),
  • Increasing positive social behaviors and decreasing disruptive behaviors (Binfet & Hartwig, 2019),
  • Enhancing psychological health (Fine, 2019), and
  • Increase in client motivation to participate in counseling and sense of safety (Lange, Cox, Bernert, & Jenkins, 2006/2007).

Additionally, the process of touching a therapy animal can help clients calm their body, regulate their emotions, and cultivate mindfulness. Clients may develop better social, communication, and boundary setting skills through the practice of AAC (Hartwig, 2018). Overall, having a therapy animal in session can be a powerful experience.

Isn’t Denali just your pet?

Yes, Denali is my pet! However, it is important to note that this is not simply a case of bringing a pet to work. Both Denali and I have undergone specialized training to ensure our qualifications for providing animal-assisted counseling services. Despite her role as my pet, Denali has been trained to participate actively in therapy sessions and play a therapeutic role. Please see more about our training under the “Credentials” section.

What if I do not like dogs or am afraid of them?

That is okay! If for any reason AAC is not a good fit for you or your family, I can work with you without Denali being present. A client must sign a consent to participate in AAC and you always have the choice to not sign the form or to change your mind, even after you have signed it. You never have to engage in any type of therapy that does not not feel comfortable for you or does not resonate with you.

How do you determine who is a good fit for AAC?

We decide together! All allergies, fear or phobias of animals, and history of animal abuse or mistreatment will be discussed before beginning treatment. We will also talk about your treatment goals, how Denali may be able to assist you in reaching them, and I will answer any questions you may have. This discussion will help determine goodness of fit and assure proper precautionary measures can be taken as needed.

What steps are taken to ensure safety and proper hygiene during the session? Denali is an animal after all.

Safety and hygiene are of utmost importance! Below are steps that are taken to assure a safe environment for all:

  • All clients and their family members must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after touching Denali.
  • If sick or injured, Denali will not be able to provide services until the illness or injury subsides or upon veterinary approval, as sickness or injury could negatively impact Denali’s behavior.
  • Although Denali will remain current on her vaccinations and health screenings, there is always a risk of zoönoses (i.e., human/animal-transmitted diseases) when working with an animal. I will make every effort to reduce the risk of zoönoses, such as monitoring interactions between Denali and you/your child, as well as encouraging you/your child to wash your hands before and after interacting with Denali.
  • I will educate and model for you, your child, and/or any family members how to greet Denali, appropriate ways to engage with Denali, and how to identify her stress and calm signals.
  • If you/your child should become aggressive (e.g., hits, kicks, bites, pulls, pinches, etc.) towards Denali during the counseling session, the session will end immediately. I will consult to determine appropriateness of continuing AAC sessions and/or make potential referrals.
  • Denali always has a choice regarding whether she participates in sessions or interacts with you/your child. If at any time she shows signs of distress, irritation, fear, or in any way acts in a negative manner, she will be allowed to take a break.
  • You/your child will never be left alone with Denali.
  • Denali does shed and some of her hair may end up on your clothes. I will provide a lint-roller for you to use.

(Hartwig, 2018)

Will Denali be present in every session?

No, Denali will not be present in every session. She will only be present in sessions where a client or a client’s guardian has signed a consent for AAC. Additionally, I will always take the treatment goals and the well-being of both the client and Denali into consideration before bringing her to session. Lastly, because Denali needs rest time, I cannot guarantee she will be at every session, even if you have consented to AAC. Denali will not come to the office if she is sick, injured, stressed, or if she does not feel like working that day!

  • Binfet, J. T., & Hartwig, E. K. (2019). Canine-assisted interventions: A comprehensive guide to credentialing therapy dog teams. Routledge.
  • Fine, A. (Ed.). (2019). Handbook of animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (5th ed.). Elsevier.
  • Hartwig, E. K. (2017). Building solutions in youth: Evaluation of the Human-Animal Resilience Therapy intervention. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 12(4), 468-481.
  • Hartwig, E. K. (2018). TXST Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy.
  • Lange, A., Cox, J., Bemert, D., & Jenkins, C. (2006/2007). Is counseling going to the dogs? An exploratory study related to the inclusion of an animal in group counseling with adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 2, 17-31.
Dr. Heidi Schilling and her dog, Denali under a tree at Texas State University.