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For Veterans With PTSD, a Measure of Independence

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By Gregg Laskoski

When the first debate between Presidents Biden and Trump was scheduled for June 27, the likelihood of overshadowing interest in National PTSD Awareness Day, which Congress designated long ago for the same date, was inevitable.

Nonetheless, for our veterans struggling with PTSD, we are obliged to understand the threat and severity it represents and enable their ability to manage it. Their progress comes in small steps, day by day, hour by hour.

K9 Partners for Patriots, an organization created for veteran suicide prevention, sees it every day, for each veteran and K9 partner together regaining their purpose. But, don’t take our word for it.

Recent findings from UCF’s School of Social Work indicate that the use of Service Dogs has gained scientific evidence of working well in many situations and for many veterans. More evaluation from both the service dog industry as well as independent scientists is now underway to further determine the helpfulness of service dogs for veterans.

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According to Chris Stewart, PhD., MSW, and Jim Whitworth, PhD., LCSW, both with UCF School of Social Work, K9P4P effectively evaluates to ensure that its program is achieving the best possible results for the veterans in our care. This is done mostly by asking the participating veterans how they are feeling as they progress through the training program. Overall, the results support the success of K9P4P in at least two ways. First, these veterans have reported a significant reduction of symptoms often associated with PTSD. For example, the veterans in the program have generally reported a significant decrease in negative thoughts and distressing memories. Similarly, they have also suggested they have less depression and anxiety. Perhaps most importantly, these veterans have reported that their thoughts of suicide and self-harm have significantly decreased.

The second finding from K9P4P’s periodic evaluations is that the veterans are happy with their individual goals or progress. Tailored to each specific veteran, from the very beginning, veterans are interviewed to give their K9P4P trainers a complete picture of both the veteran’s mental and physical health needs. That facilitates the best potential K9 match and the Service dog is trained to assist them and their individual needs. Veterans stated that they felt safer and had an increased sense of independence after completing the program.

Stewart says the program’s ability to operate this specifically provides a greater chance that veterans will succeed rather than a “one-size fits all,” approach. In other words, these dogs help each veteran with their own particular symptoms thus becoming much more than a well-trained pet.

Based in Brooksville, FL, K9P4P’s 6-month training program is available at no cost to veterans with a diagnosis of service-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Military Sexual Trauma (MST); and, an honorable discharge. https://k9partnersforpatriots.com/.

Gregg Laskoski is Communications Director for K9 Partners for Patriots.

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