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How Are Psychological Service Dogs Assigned to Patients?

How Are Psychological Service Dogs Assigned to Patients?


How are psychological service dogs assigned to patients?

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[Dr. Kristen Maisano] The process of getting a psychological service dog or a service dog in general is pretty intense—and I think that's a good thing— so that we make sure that people who don't need them don't acquire them. But I always say it's an excellent thing not to need one. It's an excellent thing not to have to rely on a service animal. But it's also a great thing to have that as an option. So what we usually do is we usually talk amongst the team members. "Do you think this person is at a point where they would benefit from a service dog? Do you see him making any more progress that you don't think a service dog would be needed?" We have a conversation about what the pros and cons of each person that we recommend. And then we usually use the service dog process as a training experience for the service member themselves. "So research different organizations that have service dogs. Research the different ways they train the dogs. Research different things that the organizations teach the dog. Is the dog yours for life or do you have to re-examine with the dog or test with the dog every 6 months? What are some of the stipulations that different organizations have and which ones do you thing meet your needs?" So almost a little bit of homework, a little bit of responsibility on the service member or the patient, that we're making sure they're looking at this from a holistic point of view. We're looking at—we're thinking about all the things we need to consider. And then it comes to a point where the service member or the patient says, "This is the organization that I feel comfortable with."

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Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

Kristen Maisano, OTDKristen Maisano, OTD is an occupational therapist and the interim director of Rehabilitation Services for the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia. She specializes in evaluating and treating military patients with traumatic brain injuries.

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