Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Glena Andrews, PhD

Second Advisor

Tyler Cudderford, PhD

Third Advisor

Paul Stoltzfus, PsyD


Firefighters experience everyday trauma, (critical incidents), as part of their job responsibilities. Critical incident exposure, number of years firefighting, burnout, and disengagement coping were positively associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms (Sattler, Boyd, & Kirsch, 2014). Ideally, firefighters would participate in positive coping strategies like trauma-related psychotherapy, massage therapy, and engaging with healthy social supports (Yuan et al., 2010); however, this does not routinely happen and posttraumatic stress symptoms increase. Since trauma can affect the body, manipulating the skin and muscles helps to release tension (Huebscher, 1998). This study investigated the relationship between massage therapy and decision-making abilities of firefighters in the state of Oregon (n = 24). They completed a demographic questionnaire, Trauma Symptom Checklist – 40 (TSC, Briere, n.d ), Iowa Gambling Task, (measuring risky decision making; IGT, Bechara, Damasio, Damasio, & Anderson, 1994), then were randomly assigned to one of three groups: chair massage, relaxing music, or control group. After 10 minutes of activity, they completed a second administration of the IGT. There was a significant positive correlation between trauma scores and pre-intervention decision-making total scores, meaning the higher the level of trauma, the better their decisionmaking scores on the pre-intervention IGT. This suggests, increased trauma encourages an individual to become hypervigilant and perform better on the IGT. Participants’ galvanic skin response (GSR) were measured pre-and post-intervention. Results revealed a 2-way interaction between IGT pre-and post-net totals and the intervention. Pre-intervention, those in the control group made better decisions based on the IGT. Participants in the massage and music interventions improved decision-making on the IGT while those who continued with work decreased. A significant 3-way interaction between pre-and post-net totals, the intervention group, and those who sustained a head injury showed that individuals in the massage group who had head injuries initially performed the worst on the IGT but had significantly higher net totals post-massage. GSR scores decreased between pre-and post-times indicating that all participant groups were less aroused during the second administration of the IGT. Further research should explore other first responders’ reactions to massage intervention as well as how long positive effects of massage last.

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Psychology Commons