Canine Complements to Psychological First Aid

Yvonne Eaton-Stull, DSW, LCSW
Slippery Rock University

Craig Sewall, MSW, LCSW
University of Pittsburgh
School of Social Work

 Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a well-established, evidence-informed behavioral health intervention designed for use by mental health and other disaster-relief responders to help support survivors following a disaster. Establishing connections, supporting adaptive coping, enhancing emotional and physical comfort, and providing practical assistance are some of the basic objectives of PFA. Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) is another intervention frequently employed to help survivors following a disaster. AACR consists of teams of canines and their handlers specially trained and certified to provide comfort and support to those affected by disaster events. We suggest that AACR is an appropriate and useful supplement to PFA that can enhance the PFA-providers’ abilities to accomplish the objectives of PFA mentioned above. We combine supporting evidence of the benefits of canine intervention, along with specific case examples, with the eight modules of PFA to illustrate how they complement one another.