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At K9 Partners for Patriots, their method is backed by promising research

“I am less upset all the time from my PTSD.” “I feel like I now have more compassion for others.” “My dog saved my life.”
Promising research supports the success of the K9 Partners for Patriots' program treating military veterans with PTSD. Central to the program is matching the dog with the vet, and training the dog alongside other vets.
Promising research supports the success of the K9 Partners for Patriots' program treating military veterans with PTSD. Central to the program is matching the dog with the vet, and training the dog alongside other vets. [ CRYSTAL CUDDINGTON | K9 Partners for Patriots ]
Published Mar. 15

These are quotes from veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who completed the program at K9 Partners for Patriots. And their observations are borne out by research.

In particular, a 2019 report led by researchers from the University of Central Florida’s School of Social Work. The study showed “statistically significant improvement” in all 12 PTSD symptoms examined. In the study, 43 veterans in the K9 Partners for Patriots program were surveyed before and after the program using the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI-2) clinical scales. Just some of the results:

• 95% of veterans in the program reported decreased depression and anxiety symptoms

• 93% of veterans in the program reported decreased anger/irritability

• 91% of veterans in the program reported decreased flashbacks, nightmares

A subsequent study by the same group interviewed spouses and partners of veterans in the program. (This is the first known study that specifically sought to understand the impacts of a service dog training program from the spouse or partner’s perspective.) Fifteen spouses/partners of veterans who completed K9 Partners for Patriots’ program took part in the study, which involved online assessments and taking part in in-depth interviews.

About these studies, the lead researcher, UCF’s Jim Whitworth, PhD, LCSW, said,” These results highlight the personal and social benefits described by veterans dealing with PTSD who participated in this program.”

Dr. Whitworth is particularly impressed by the willingness of vets to participate in the program, and the high rate of completion. This is not the usual case with standard, office-based trauma treatments for these veterans. Typically, only half of vets with PTSD seek formal treatment and only half of those complete the treatment.

Why is it so different at K9 Partners for Patriots? Dr. Whitworth and the experts at K9P4P believe it may be a combination of factors: first, being matched to a prescreened dog (sometimes an existing pet; more often, a new dog that chooses the vet); then training and bonding with that dog alongside other vets facing similar challenges; and finally, the shared sense of mission and camaraderie that develops from that process. It becomes a safe place, a second family, a source of support and acceptance from people who “get it.”

While Dr. Whitworth stresses they are “just at the beginning” of research into this method of treating PTSD, he adds, “but what the statistics are showing is that this program appears to be a promising way of decreasing symptoms of PTSD for some veterans. As a therapist, I can say I have rarely seen PTSD symptom relief happen so quickly and consistently.

“There are both physical, biological and psychological changes that take place during this process. It is holistic, and seen by the veterans as an acceptable means for battling the symptoms of PTSD. For some this will be enough; for others, it may be the gateway to being able to more successfully participate in more traditional forms of treatment. These types of programs should be offered throughout the country at no cost to the veterans.”

As it is at K9 Partners for Patriots. If you would like to give to, learn about, or participate in this important work, call them Monday through Thursday at 352-397-5306, or make an appointment to visit at 15322 Aviation Loop Drive in Brooksville. Find them online at https://k9partnersforpatriots.com/.