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Dissertation

Mental Health Benefits Associated with Participation in A Dog Training Program at a Psychiatric Facility

22 July 2019

Abstract

Anecdotal reports and preliminary evidence have suggested that psychiatric patients who have participated in animal programs experience wide-ranging benefits, such as decreased psychiatric symptoms, fewer aggressive behavioral demonstrations, and reduced stress. However, there are few high-quality studies that provide quantitative data to support these findings. The purpose of the proposed study was to provide an empirical, quantitative evaluation of the effect of participation in a service dog program at Oregon State Hospital on participants’ mental health, medication use, skill development, and social engagement. This study also aimed to provide an example for how other evaluators could derive meaningful, quantitative data on the impact of psychiatric animal programs on participants. I utilized a quasi-experimental single subject AB design and reported data from three program participants. Cumulative findings indicated some preliminary support for hypothesized gains in subjective mental health and vocational skill development associated with program participation. No clear trends were found in other variables studied relative to participants’ participation (i.e., reduction in medication use or increased social engagement).


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