Date of Award

8-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Rodriguez, Benjamin

Second Advisor

Kertz, Sarah

Abstract

This study served as a preliminary investigation of the effectiveness of an understudied complementary (to traditional treatment approaches) intervention for military related PTSD. Specifically, the utilization of a nonprofit organization’s intensive three-week training program and use of psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) for PTSD and associated symptom amelioration. The sample included two separate cohorts of military veterans (n = 7 and n = 5) with prior diagnoses of PTSD. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures assessing PTSD and related symptoms, depression, perception of social support, anger, and overall quality of life. Participants also completed an attention bias task that was utilized to objectively assess changes in attentional bias to threat. Participants completed the measures one month prior to the training (baseline), at arrival to the training site, at the end of each week of the training, and at one and six month follow-up. Results indicated that, for all participants, there was a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms. In addition, for most participants, these decreases were both clinically significant and reliable. Further, participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life. Data from the attentional bias task was inconclusive. Limitations of the study include a lack of control group and small sample size. Despite this, the findings of this study indicate that utilizing PSDs as a complementary treatment for PTSD could yield beneficial results in terms of symptom amelioration and improvement to overall quality of life for veterans suffering from PTSD.

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