The effect of a therapy dog on the effectiveness of a Child Life intervention with adolescents experiencing grief and loss

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ABSTRACT The experience of grief and loss is a process that can be extremely distressing to anyone, regardless of age.

ABSTRACT The experience of grief and loss is a process that can be extremely distressing to anyone, regardless of age. This may be especially true for youth. This study was designed and conducted to determine the effects of a therapy dog as a therapeutic adjunct in Child Life interventions with adolescents experiencing grief and loss. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The intervention consisted of 3 sessions with a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) to address grief. Group 1 (N=14) was the control group, meeting only with the CCLS. Group 2 (N=13) was the experimental group and met with the CCLS with a therapy dog present during the sessions. Participants completed a pre-test and post-test of the Children's Mood Questionnaire. At the end of each session, subjects completed a Therapeutic Engagement Questionnaire. The pet therapy group experienced a significant improvement in mood scores on the Children's Mood Questionnaire following the intervention. However, there were no significant differences between groups on the Therapeutic Engagement Questionnaire during any of the 3 sessions. The data collected from this study indicate that the addition of a therapy dog in grief interventions with adolescents may improve mood outcomes.