Darlene Chalmers, BEd, BSW, MSW, PhD, RSW

Profile image for Darlene Chalmers
Associate Professor
Associate Dean - Undergraduate

Contact Info

Office: 306-664-7379
CO 111.10
Saskatoon Campus

Dr. Darlene Chalmers is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, Saskatoon Campus. She completed her PhD in Social Work at the University of Calgary. Her dissertation explored the process of relationship development between humans and horses contributing to human development and animal welfare. Darlene holds a certificate in Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning/Psychotherapy for Mental Health Professionals, a certificate in pet loss and grief, and has been a Saint John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program handler since 2014.

Her direct practice experience in the areas of disability, child and family services, school social work, and community organizing informs Darlene's teaching and pedagogy. Courses taught include: anti-oppressive social work practice; community work in generalist practice; disability issues; and social work foundation courses including practice methods, critical thinking, and communication skills. Darlene recently developed the undergraduate course Animals, Social Work & Society. Using a One Health framework, this course focuses on a holistic understanding of the human-animal-environment interdependency and the implications for social work practice. The course draws on her research and practice in the area of the human-animal bond/interaction, and specifically animal-assisted interventions. Courses taught at the graduate level include qualitative research and her recently developed course on environmental social work. She has supervised multiple graduate students to the completion of their theses, field and research practica.

Darlene was an instrumental committee member in developing the Veterinary Social Work Initiative; a partnership between the U of S Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and the Faculty of Social Work. She served at the Co-Chair of the Initiative, which resulted in the establishment of a full-time Veterinary Social Worker (VSW) at the WCVM in 2015. The VSW position is invaluable in providing wellness supports to clients of the Veterinary Medical Centre, veterinary students and faculty, and mentoring of social work practicum students.

Her research interests include the human-animal bond/interaction; the inclusion of animal-assisted interventions as an adjunct to therapeutic practice; social work and the environment; and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), specifically transformative learning and the role of animals in the post-secondary classroom.

Darlene has contributed to the literature in the area of animal assisted interventions including research on equine assisted intervention programs, therapy dogs on university campuses, and therapy dog programs in prisons. Together with Dr. Colleen Dell (U of S), she co-developed PAWSitive Support, a prison-based, canine assisted wellness program at Drumheller Institution that began in 2016

Her work in prisons additionally includes her contribution to the development of a therapy dog program at the Prairie Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon. She has been involved with the RPC Therapy Dog Program team as a therapy dog handler since 2015. Darlene also collaborated on the development of an Animal Memories Magazine. The aim of the magazine was to learn from inmates and the latest research about the benefits of the human animal bond.

Postcard Animal Memories Page1

Postcard Animal Memories Page2

Darlene's current research is focused on the role of service dogs in the lives veterans with PTSD. She is a collaborator on a study exploring the "Role of Service Dogs and Veterans with PTSD and Who Problematically use Substances" funded by Health Canada Substance Use and Addiction Program (Dr. Colleen Anne Dell, USask, PI).



Kosteniuk, B., Dell, C., Cruz, M., Chalmers, D. 2023. "An Experiential Approach to Canine-Assisted Learning in Corrections for Prisoners Who Use Substances". Journal of Forensic Nursing. DOI: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000435.

Dell, C., Gibson, M., Carey, B., McKenzie, H., Peachy, S., Williamson, L., Chalmers, D. (2022). “How Therapy Dogs are Helping to Reduce Needle Fear at a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic”. Canadian Nurse. Practice Article. French.

Gibson, M., Chalmers, D., & Riyu, S. (2022). "My lifeline is gone": An exploration of the experiences of veterans following the loss of their psychiatric service dog(s). Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 11(3), 54-74.

Gibson, M., Dell, C., Chalmers, D. (2021). Connecting online for peer support: Participant feedback. Fact Sheet 2. University of Saskatchewan.

Williamson, L., Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Cruz, M., & DeGroot, P. (2021). Recognizing the human-animal bond for enhancing zooeyia among PTSD-diagnosed veterans who have a service dog and problematically use substances. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin. Manuscript Accepted.

Williamson, L., Dell, C., Osgood, N., Chalmers, D., Lohnes,C., Carleton, N., & Asmundson, G. (2021). Examining changes in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and substance use among a sample of Canadian veterans working with service dogs: An exploratory patient-oriented longitudinal study. Journal of Veterans Studies, 7(1), 1-13.

Gibson, M., Williamson, L., Henwood, G., Chalmers, D., & Dell, C. (2021). Perceptions and use of alcohol and medical cannabis among Canadian military veterans living with PTSD. Journal of Veterans Studies.7(1), 59-70.

Chalmers, D., Dell, C., Dixon, J., Rohr, B., Dowling, T., & Hanrahan, C., (2020). Recognizing animals as an important part of helping: A survey exploring knowledge and practice among Canadian social workers. Critical Social Work, 21(1).

Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Stobbe, M., Rohr, B., & Husband, A. (2019). Animal assisted therapy in a Canadian Psychiatric prison. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 8, 14-64.

Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Cole, D. & Dixon, J. (2019). Accessing relational connections in prison: An evaluation of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program at Stony Mountain Institution. Annual Review of Interdisciplinary Justice Research (IJR). Advance online access

Chalmers, D. (2019). The importance of including animals in social work practice. Saskatchewan Social Worker, 30(1), 13-14.

Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Gillett, J., Steeves, M., Rohr, B., Fornssler, B., Husband, A., McKenzie, H., Iwajomo, O., Nickel, C. (2018). “Effects of a therapy dog program on the wellbeing of older veterans living a long term care residence. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin 6(2), 83-102.

Dell, C., Petryk, C., Chalmers, D., & Sillers, L. (2018). Integrating therapy dogs into Saskatchewan’s Coordinated Trauma Response. The Humanitarian: Saskatchewan SPCA, p. 3.

Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Gillett, J., Rohr, B., Nickel, C., Campbell, L., et al. (2015). PAWSing student stress: A pilot study of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program on three Canadian campuses". Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy/ Revue canadienne de counseling et de psychothérapie, 49(4), ISSN 1923-6182. Available at:

Chalmers, D. & Dell, C. A. (2015). Applying one health to the study of animal assisted interventions. Ecohealth,  doi: 10.1007/s10393-015-1042-3

Adams, C., Boucher, J., Cartier, G., Chalmers, D., et al. (2015). The helping horse: How equine assisted learning contributes to the wellbeing of First Nations youth in treatment for volatile substance misuse. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 1(1), 52-75.  

Chalmers, D. (2011). Social work and the environment: Understanding people and place. [Review of the book Social work and the environment: Understanding people and place, by M.K. Zapf]. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 31(3), 397-398.

Chalmers, D., & Dell, C. (2011). Equine-assisted therapy as an adjunct to treatment for solvent abuse among First Nations youth: A key consideration for building an empirical knowledge base. Native Studies Review, 20(1), 59-87.

Dell, C. Chalmers, D., Bresette, N., Swain, S., Rankin, D., & Hopkins, C. (2011). A Healing Space: The experiences of First Nations and Inuit youth with equine assisted learning. Child and Youth Care Forum, 40(2), 319-336.

Dell, C., Chalmers, D., Dell, D., Sauve, E., MacKinnon, T. (2008). Horse as healer: An examination of equine-assisted learning in the healing of First Nations youth from solvent abuse. Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 6(1), 81-106.

Watkinson, A. & Chalmers, D. (2008). Disability, professional unsuitability and the profession of social work: A case study. Social Work Education 27(5), 504-518.

Book Chapters:

Chalmers, D., Dell, C., Dixon, J. & Rath, G. (2022). PAWSitive support: A canine assisted learning program to support prisoners in healing from substance use. In R. Csiernik, W. Rowe, G. Novotna (Eds.), Responding to the oppression of addiction: Canadian social work perspectives (4th ed.), pp. xxx-xxx. Canadian Scholars. (In Press).

Hanrahan, C. & Chalmers, D. (2020). Animal-informed social work: A more-than-critical practice. In C. Brown and J. MacDonald (Eds.). Critical clinical social work: Counterstorying for social justice.  Canadian Scholars' Press.

Oliver, B. & Chalmers, D. (2020). Reflexive photography: Using transformative pedagogies to develop critical practitioners. In J. Friberg, C. Visconti, & S. Ginsberg (Eds.), Evidence-based education in the classroom: Examples from clinical disciplines. (In Press). Slack Inc.

Oliver, B., Chalmers, D., & Goitom, M. (2019). Reflexivity in the field: Applying lessons learned from a collaborative scholarship of teaching and learning study exploring the use of reflexive photography in field education. In J. Friberg & K. McKinney (eds) Conducting and Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Beyond the Individual Classroom Level. Indiana University Press.

Select Conference Presentations:

Chalmers, D. & Dell, C. (2020, October). PAWSitive support: The development of a prison-based canine assisted learning (CAL) program. Presented at the 6th International Veterinary Social Work Summit. VirtualConference.

Chalmers, D. (2019, October). Bonding behind bars. Paper presented at 16th Biennial Custody and Caring International Conference. Saskatoon, SK.

Matsuoka, A., Sorenson, J., Ferreira, T., Hanrahan, C., & Chalmers, D.  (2019, June). Engaging in trans-species social justice through rethinking animal-human relations and challenging and transforming anthropocentric action. Presented at the annual CASWE conference, Vancouver, BC. (In absentia).

Chalmers, D. Hanrahan, C., & Gillett, J. (2018, June). Bridging animals, social work & society: A roundtable on reconciliation. Presented at the annual CASWE conference, Regina, Sk. (Chalmers roundtable chair). Hanrahan, C. & Chalmers, D. Gillett, J. (2018 Jun). Bridging animals, social work, & society: A national think tank crafting new narratives. Presented at the annual CASWE conference, Regina, Sk. (Chalmers think tank co-chair).

Chalmers, D. & Dell, C.A. (2017, November). 5 days, 4 prisoners & 3 therapy dogs = PAWSitive Support. Workshop presentation at the International Issues of Substance: Addiction Matters Conference. Calgary, AB.

Chalmers, D., Brown, T., Corbeil, A., Sowden, J. & Walker, P. (2017, October). Animal assisted therapy in a Canadian Psychiatric Prison. Paper presented at 15th Biennial Custody and Caring International Conference. Saskatoon, SK.

Chalmers, D. (2016, May). Advancing social work and the environment: Educating for a new practice agenda. Paper presented at the annual CASWE conference, Calgary, AB.

Dell, C. & Gillett, J. & Chalmers, D. (2016, May) Session title: Animals and society: A focus on the human-animal bond. Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference, Calgary, AB. (D. Chalmers session discussant)

Chalmers, D. (2015, November 3). Perceived mutuality in horse-human relationships: A place for wellbeing. Veterinary Wellness & Social Work Summit, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.

Chalmers, D. & Wasson, E. (2015, November). One Health in practice: Holistic approaches for promoting resilience in veterinary practice among veterinarians, veterinary students, and allied professionals. Veterinary Wellness & Social Work Summit, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.

Oliver, B., Chalmers, D., & Goitom, M. (2014, November). Grounded theory and the scholarship of teaching and learning: Methodology that responds to theoretical and practice demands. Paper presented at the Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Mount Royal University 5th Annual Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Banff, AB.

Dell, C. & Chalmers, D. (2014, October). Treating drug addiction with animal assisted therapy: Contributions of one health. Paper presented at the 7th International Symposium: Safety & Health in Agricultural & Rural Populations: Global Perspectives, Saskatoon, SK.

Chalmers, D. & Dell, C. (2014, October) Animal-assisted programs in addictions and mental health: Transformations in research and practice. Paper presented at the Prairie Child Welfare Consortium 2014 Symposium, Saskatoon, SK.

Chalmers, D., Dell, C., & Dowling, T. (2014, May). Veterinary social work: A Canadian project in the making. Paper presented at the annual CASWE conference, St. Catherines, ON.

Goitom, M., Chalmers, D., & Oliver, B. (2014, May). Developing reflective/reflexive practice in social work field education: Curriculum that addresses and responds to "theoretical" and practice demands. Presented at the second annual Teaching in Focus: Education, Innovation and Transformation conference. York University, Toronto, ON.

Dell, C., Sauve, E., Chalmers, D., & Kirlin, N. (2013, November). Pawsitive support: Applying animal assisted therapy in the treatment of addictions. Presented at the Issues of Substance: From Knowledge to Know-how—Learn. Inspire. Change. National Conference (90 minute Open Forum Presentation). Ottawa, ON

Chalmers, D., Goitom, M., & Oliver, B. (2013, June). Reflexivity in field teaching and learning: Becoming critical practitioners. Paper presented at the annual CASWE conference, Victoria, BC.

Chalmers, D., Adams, C. & Leguillette, R. (2013, March). The human-horse interaction: Perceived mutuality as a core dimension of relationship, fulfillment and well-being. Paper presented at the Living with Animals conference, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.

Chalmers, D. (2011, June). The person-in-environment perspective (PIE): Envisioning a framework for considering wellbeing and the human, animal and ecosystem link. Paper presented at the annual CASWE conference, Fredericton, NB.

Chalmers, D. & Adams, C. (2010, July). Expanding the person-in-environment perspective: Animals and ecosystems as predictors and moderators of health and disease. Paper presented at the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO). Stockholm, Sweden.

Chalmers, D. & Adams, C. (2010, June). Exploring “family” within the human and animal relationship: A role for social work teaching, research and practice. Paper presented at the Annual CASWE Conference, Montreal, PQ.

Dell, C. & Chalmers, D. (November 2008). Horse as healer: An examination of equine-assisted learning (EAL) in the healing of First Nations youth from solvent abuse. Paper presented at the CPHR and SPHERU conference New Directions in Population Health Research: Linking Theory, Ethics and Practice. Regina, SK.

Watkinson, A.M. & Chalmers, D. (2004, May). Disability, professional unsuitability and the profession of Social Work: A case study. Paper presented at the Annual CASSW/CASWE Conference, Winnipeg, MB.

Select Poster Presentations:

Chalmers, D., Dell, C., Williamson, L., Rodgers, N., Husband, A., & Carey, B. (2019 November). Researchers training a service dog to learn about veterans’ experiences with problematic opioid use: A patient-oriented research approach. International Issues of Substance: Addiction Matters Conference. Ottawa, ON. (In Absentia).

Chalmers, D. & Dell, C. (2019 November). PAWSitive support: The development of a Canadian prison-based canine assisted learning program in response to Canada’s opioid crisis. International Issues of Substance: Addiction Matters Conference. Ottawa, ON. (In Absentia).

Dell, C. & Chalmers, D. (2019 November). Animal-assisted therapy in a Canadian Psychiatric Prison: Addressing problematic substance use and mental health. International Issues of Substance: Addiction Matters Conference. Ottawa, ON. (In Absentia).

Ebbesen, L., Kent-Wilkinson, A., Dell, C., & Chalmers, D., Hales, N. (2019 October). Unleashing animal-assisted intervention in federal corrections in Canada: A community-academic-corrections success story. The 16th Biennial Custody and Caring International Conference on the Nurse’s Role in the Criminal Justice System. Saskatoon, Sk.

Chalmers, D., Dell, C., Lapointe, M., Lohnes, C., & Dell, D. (2018 October). Audeamus service dog program: An evidence-based curriculum supporting the health and wellbeing of veterans. Canadian Institute of Military Veteran Health Research Forum, Regina, SK.

Dell, C., B. Rohr, &  Chalmers, D. (2016, September). Update: Social work practice and human-animal interaction survey: A Canadian prairie provinces study. International One Welfare Conference, Winnipeg, MB.

Dell, C. & Chalmers, D. (2008, June). Horse as healer: An examination of equine assisted learning (EAL) in the healing of First Nations youth from solvent abuse. Poster presented at the World Psychiatric Association Epidemiology & Public Health Section Meeting. Saskatoon, Sk.

Chalmers, D., Rohr, B., Dell, C., & Dowling, T. (2016, April). Social work practice and human-animal interaction survey: A Canadian prairie provinces study. Poster presented at the One Health Symposium. University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sk.

Bokitch, A., Chalmers, D., Dell, C., Field, A., & Gillett, J. (2014, March). Treating drug addiction with animal-assisted therapy. Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse Workshop, Ottawa, On.