NYMC Faculty Publications

Animal-Assisted Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Lessons from "Case Reports" in Media Stories


NYMC First Author of a Publication with the Highest Usage at the 2019 NYMC Faculty Author Celebration

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Military Medicine

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Rehabilitation Medicine


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can follow war trauma, sexual abuse, other traumas, and even be experienced by commanders for the PTSD of their subordinates. Medications and counseling are sometimes not effective, so new treatments are needed. Some years ago, I suggested that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) (pet therapy) might be beneficial for PTSD. A large randomized controlled trial is underway of canine-assisted therapy for PTSD. Randomized controlled trials are most useful in assessing the efficacy of a medical intervention as these trials control for known and unknown biases. However, due to their very nature and rigorous requirements, knowledge gained from randomized controlled trials may need to be supplemented from other kinds of studies. Here, I note that media reports of AAT for PTSD may effectively function as case reports and suggest further studies: For PTSD, these demonstrate that (1) AAT can be dramatically effective in improving PTSD symptoms; (2) there is the potential for benefit from AAT by multiple different animals besides canines for PTSD; and (3) AAT may have a role in preventing suicide in patients with PTSD.