Bereavement behind bars: Grief support groups with and without therapy dogs for incarcerated females
Keywords:animal-assisted therapy, therapy dogs, grief, group therapy, loss, prison, women
Grief is a universal experience; however not everyone experiences grief and loss in the same way. People who are incarcerated are often informed of losses via phone, are unable to attend funeral services or participate in supportive rituals, and can have difficulty expressing feelings in a place where showing emotion can be dangerous. Being unable to obtain support and process grief and loss may contribute to impaired functioning. In this study of bereavement support for women in prison, incarcerated women with recent or unresolved losses (n=32) were randomly assigned to grief support groups with therapy dogs (animal-assisted, AA) or without therapy dogs (non-AA). Pre- and post-test measures of bereavement symptoms and prolonged grief disorder (PGD) were obtained. This study shows that AA groups had more significant decreases in symptoms, lower rates of post-group diagnostic criteria for PGD and higher rates of perceived support/benefit from the groups.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Yvonne Eaton-Stull, Jessica Hotchkiss, Janel Jones, Francine Lilien
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
This article first appeared in Bereavement online [date] bereavementjournal.org