Lending a helping paw for Australians with post-traumatic stress disorder

PhD Thesis

Heyworth, Karina. 2023. Lending a helping paw for Australians with post-traumatic stress disorder. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy . University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/z3vyz

Lending a helping paw for Australians with post-traumatic stress disorder

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorsHeyworth, Karina
1. FirstDr Carla Jeffries
2. SecondProf Gavin Beccaria
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages215
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/z3vyz

An expanding field of inquiry is the use of specially trained psychiatric assistance dogs (PADs) to assist in mitigating an individual’s challenges with PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The purpose of this research is to explore the feasibility of PADs as a complementary intervention to traditional PTSD treatment approaches for Australian adults. First, a mixed-method systematic review was conducted to identify the roles of PADs in assisting recovery and examine the facilitators and barriers of the use of PADs in achieving therapeutic outcomes for defence and first responders living with PTSD. A convergent data-base framework was employed and the results from 40 studies were contextualised through the lens of a broad recovery model. Findings from the review, identified PADs play a unique, multi-facilitative role in supporting PTSD-related challenges in five clinical and nonclinical recovery dimensions (clinical, social, existential, physical, and functional domains), as well as recognising challenges of the provision of a PAD for PTSD. The second study explored the experiences of Australian adults with PTSD integrating their PADs into current PTSD practices. The data extracted from a single qualitative question in an online survey from 104 participants was conceptualised through a reflexive thematic analysis. The findings illustrated the inclusion of PADs into concurrent treatment was attributed to goal-oriented progress, improved clinicianpatient alliance, and engagement. Exclusion of PADs from professional practice was found to have had a negative influence on participants’ therapeutic experiences, creating clinician-patient barriers, disengagement, and for some, termination of treatment. The third study sought to understand factors influencing the acquisition of PAD and the type of PAD training model completed. Of the 88 Australian respondents, 90% of participants self-trained a dog to become an accredited PAD and defence and first responders are four times more likely to acquire a pre-trained than the Australian general population. Findings revealed several inhibitive aspects of the acquisition, eligibility, availability, and accessibility of receiving and training a PAD. Implications of this research identified PADs can be positively augmented in concurrent PTSD treatments for best practice outcomes and this thesis contributed to a better understanding of the enabling and inhibiting aspects that Australians with PTSD face when seeking to use a PAD for their invisible injury.

Keywordspost-traumatic stress; psychiatric assistance dogs; complementary intervention; recovery; mixed methods; self-training
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 20205299. Other psychology
Public Notes

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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Psychology and Wellbeing
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