About Lead the Way

Lead the Way, based in Melbourne, Victoria, is an organisation dedicated to providing high quality clinical services to those in need, and training fellow professionals in the art and science of delivering Animal-Assisted Interventions.


Lead The Way was established in 2003 by Psychologist and Professional Dog Trainer Melanie G Jones. Seeing the degree of attachment between people and their animals inspired Melanie to begin investigating the Human-Animal Bond (HAB). Melanie subsequently went on to develop Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP) programmes that incorporated her psychology training, psychotherapy techniques and dog training skills and philosophies – and Lead The Way was born.


With a strong dedication to research and development, Lead The Way has remained at the forefront of the developing field of Animal-Assisted Interventions since its inception. Over the past 15 years Lead The Way has worked in collaboration with organisations and Universities to ensure our team provides you with the most up to date knowledge in the field.


In 2009 the Psychology Clinic opened, providing psychological counselling and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) to individuals and families. The Clinics, located in Boronia and Croydon, provide quality clinical services to those in need across Melbourne’s east, including the Dandenong Ranges.

Lead The Way Australia is delighted to have been granted full membership of the IAHAIO (International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organisations)

AAIAA Organisation Logo

Our Therapists

Melanie G. Jones

Animal-Assisted Intervention Association Founding MemberPrincipal Psychologist

Boronia Clinic

Melanie Jones is a Psychologist, Animal-Assisted Therapist, Professional Dog Trainer and the Director of Lead the Way. Melanie works with school aged children through to adults, and has a special interest in working with Adolescents.

Melanie works with her dogs Opal (Labrador) and Leila (Toy Schnoodle) and her cat Panda (Black & White domestic).

Melanie is registered as a Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and holds full membership with the Australian Association of Psychologists Inc. She is the founder of the Animal-Assisted Intervention Association of Australia (AAIAA). Melanie is also a Senior Canine Behavioural Trainer, with extensive experience in therapy- and therapeutic-dog training. For over 15 years Melanie has worked with children, adolescents and families in need.

Emma Millard


Boronia Clinic, Croydon Clinic, Outreach

Emma is passionate and dedicated psychologist providing quality services that focus on the clients’ needs and building a strong supportive, empathetic, and non-judgmental relationship.  Emma works with clients aged 5 years to adult.

Emma has experience working with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, trauma, behaviour problems (including aggression, violence, offending, sexual problems), anger management/emotional regulation issues, parenting/family issues, relationship problems, social and communication deficits and substance use/dependence.

Emma’s experience also extends to group therapy facilitation, training and the development of treatment programs and workshops. She is also dedicated to professional development, attending an array of training workshops, lectures and conferences nationally and internationally.

Emma is also an animal assisted therapist and her Toy Cavoodle, Lucy, can join sessions. Lucy will work with you to provide a sense of comfort and calmness during consultations.

Emma is committed to providing evidence-based assessment and treatment and has worked with diverse client groups. She predominately works from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) framework, utilising Schema Focused Therapy (SFT), Mindfulness, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused/Brief Therapy.

Emma is a registered Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and is a provider of Psychological services through Medicare Australia. She has 10 years experience working in both private and government sectors (including public mental health, Department of Health and Human Services, TAC and the Justice system). Emma is passionate in helping clients live a fulfilling life with confidence. She values the importance of fostering a warm, supportive and collaborative environment in which to conduct treatment and ensure her clients reach their full potential.

Johana Xanthopoulos

Psychologist (Clinical)

Croydon Clinic

Johana is a Clinical Psychologist. She works with a range of clients, including children, adolescents and adults. Working previously in an early childhood intervention setting, Johana has skills and experience working with a range of childhood disorders, particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder. Johana’s other special interests include Personality Disorders, as well as Anxiety and Depression across a range of ages. Johana uses evidence-based interventions such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), and aims to create an environment where clients feel comfortable and heard. In her role, Johana assesses, diagnoses and treats a range of mental health issues.

Additionally, Johana has a yellow Labrador named Luna who will commence working with her and assist her in her therapy at Lead the Way in October.

Johana is registered as a Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and is endorsed as a Clinical Psychologist. She is also a member of the Australian Psychological Society.

Anita Skok

Psychologist (Educational & Developmental)

School group programmes

Anita Skok is an Educational and Developmental Psychologist and Animal-Assisted Therapist. Anita works with clients aged 5 years to adult. She works with a variety of issues and mental health conditions and has a special interest in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety disorders.

Anita works with her Ragdoll cat Coco and her dog, a Tibetan Spaniel cross named Tuffy, and provides services at our Boronia Clinic, and via outreach to local schools.

Anita brings a wealth of skills and experience with her, with a Master’s Degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology and endorsement as an Educational and Developmental Psychologist by the Psychology Board of Australia. She is a member of the Australian Psychological Society. Anita has 16 years of experience working in the areas of psychology and welfare in schools, government organisations and private practice. She has worked in private practice since 2011. Anita has also worked as a lecturer in Developmental Psychology.

Elani Schmidt

Provisional Psychologist, Counsellor & Animal-Assisted Therapist

Outreach, groups & programmes

Elani is a Counsellor and Animal-Assisted Therapist with undergraduate qualifications in Psychology, and postgraduate qualifications in counselling and psychotherapy. Elani is now completing a second Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology. Since completing an internship with Lead The Way during her first Masters Degree, we are delighted that Elani has continued to work with us providing a range of group and outreach services. Elani has skills and experience working with a diverse range of people, including children with autism, homeless youth, and parent counselling. Elani has a special interest in grief and trauma counselling.  Elani also has skills and experience in dog-training, and is an assistant on the Emotional Support Dog programs.

Elani has a mini lop rabbit named Winston, and a miniature poodle named Indi who assist her in therapy at Lead the Way.