Therapy dogs, stress-reduction, and well-being within the detachment: Interviews with law-enforcement personnel
Okanagan School of Education, University of British Columbia, Kelowna, BC
Despite the increasing popularity of canine-assisted interventions (CAIs) across a variety of contexts, and the demonstrated efficacy they have on stress reduction, there is a paucity of research exploring the implementation of such programs within the context of law enforcement. Policing is known to be an environment in which personnel experience elevated occupational stress. As stress can compromise the overall well-being of law-enforcement personnel and their ability to serve the public, it is important to understand how CAIs involving therapy dog visitation are experienced by the very individuals for whom they are intended to help. This qualitative study explored Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members’ experiences of stress within a detachment and their perceptions of a CAI integrated within their workplace to support their well-being. Eight RCMP members (75% female, Mage = 49.21, SD = 6.12) from an urban RCMP detachment situated in the downtown core of a small city were interviewed. The interview focused on topics including members’ experiences of stress within the workplace, their perceptions of the effects of stress, resources and sources of support, and their experiences participating in a weekly CAI within their detachment. Results indicated that organizational stressors were identified more often than operational stressors; that members most commonly reported that stress rendered them more irritable and impacted their sleep, and that the most commonly reported coping mechanism and resource are exercise and medical services, respectively. In discussing the CAI, participants were overwhelmingly positive in their experiences of the program, and demonstrated support for having CAIs within the detachment setting. Discussion of the impact of the sessions demonstrated that participants found that the program served as a break from work, relieved their stress, improved their mood, and helped them to change perspectives. Participants also identified the role of the dogs within the program, which included their role as a social being. The findings from the current study contribute to better understanding of the lived experiences of stress within RCMP members and of CAIs within an applied setting.
Key words: law-enforcement, canine-assisted intervention, stress reduction, therapy dogs
Posted in Pre-Publication Articles