Mark E. Reed

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology


Pet-facilitated therapy has been hailed in recent years as an effective means of bringing about psychosocial benefits for elderly people in institutions. However, empirical investigations are relatively recent and more are needed. The primary objectives of this dissertation were: .1) to conduct an empirically sound study of the mascot model of pet therapy, focusing specifically on its impact on levels of loneliness and depression among nursing home residents, 2) to identify the relationship between existential well-being and loneliness and depression, and 3) to address the use of pets to meet the social/emotional needs of humans from a framework of biblical theology. The mascot model of human/companion animal interaction refers to the use of one live-in animal for the benefit of a group of people, generally within an institutional setting. The pet chosen to be the mascot· was an adult Springer Spaniel dog. A quasi-experimental time series design was employed that involved three 6-week data-gathering periods {baseline, treatment, baseline). The Abbreviated Loneliness Scale (ABLS) and the Depression Adjective Check List {DACL) were administered to 48 participants at the end of each 6-week condition. Lastly, a Demographic Questionnaire and the Existential Well-Being subscale of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale were administered. Repeated measures analysis of variance indicated a significant difference between baseline and treatment scores for both loneliness and depression (.E. < • 05). Also the EWB sub scale manifested significant negative correlations with the ABLS and DACL. The implications of this study are: 1) proper pet selection and staff support are essential to the success of any pet therapy project; 2) empirical support is provided for developing mascot model pet therapy programs in nursing homes where residents' depression and loneliness are a major concern; and 3) from a framework of biblical theology, only a human being can meet the social/emotional needs of another human being to the fullest, but in the absence of satisfying human relationships a pet animal may provide some ·of a person's companionship needs.

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