HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Psychiatric service dogs as a tertiary prevention modality for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder

Article

This article examines the usability of psychiatric service dogs as a prevention modality from the perspective of veterans with PTSD.

Abstract

Objective: To document the usability of psychiatric service dogs (PsySDs) as a tertiary prevention modality from the perspective of veterans who have been using a PsySD 2 to 4 years as an assistive aid for post-traumatic stress disorder symptom (PTSD) management. Method: A case series study with PsySD primary users was carried out with 10 Canadian veterans recruited from 4 different dog training schools. Researchers conducted semi-structured telephone interviews and asked questions pertaining to four domains addressing the PsySD’s ‘usability’. A content and thematic analysis were realized using an inductive and deductive approach. Results: Our conceptual framework proposes four main themes with their associated subthemes:: 1-Service dog’s roles and tasks (8 subthemes, e.g. acting as a socializing agent, maintaining an appropriate free space around the veteran), 2-Personal advantages and Environmental impacts (8 subthemes, e.g. alleviating symptoms; increasing outings and physical activities, enabling social interactions and relationship building), 3-Obstacles (4 subthemes, e.g. high costs of dog maintenance, dog’s presence attracted unwanted public attention, prompting intrusive questions), and 4-Recommendations for PsySD programs (16 subthemes, e.g. creating a national registry for PsySD, encouraging mental health practitioners’ involvement). Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Themes 1 and 2 are positive perceptions, and theme 4 suggests re-levant potential improvements. The current study offers insights into how PsySDs concretely assist primary users and can help addressing PTSD chronicity. It presents the roles professionals may play when dealing with patients using PsySDs for PTSD. The proposed conceptual framework can be useful to policy makers, dog trainers and caregivers.

Full Reference

Lessard, G; Vincent, C; Gagnon, D; Belleville, G; Auger, É; Lavoie, V; Besemann, M; Champagne, N; Dumont, F; Béland, E. (2018). Psychiatric service dogs as a tertiary prevention modality for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental health & prevention. Vol: 10, p.42-49.