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HSR&D Citation Abstract

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Grubaugh AL, Myers US, Keller SM, Wangelin BC, Lozano BE, Tuerk PW. An adjunctive human-animal interaction intervention for veterans with PTSD: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2019 Dec 27; 20(1):786.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rarely remits over time, and if left untreated, leads to significant distress, functional impairment, and increased health care costs. Fortunately, effective evidence-based treatments (EBTs) for PTSD, such as Prolonged Exposure (PE), exist. Despite their availability and efficacy, a significant number of individuals with PTSD do not initiate treatment when offered or dropout prematurely. One proposed theory suggests that the emotional-numbing symptoms of PTSD (e.g., blunted affect, apathy) can serve as a barrier to engaging in, and successfully completing, treatment; and the broad human-animal interaction (HAI) literature available suggests that HAI can potentially reduce emotional numbing related to PTSD. Accordingly, this manuscript describes an ongoing, federally funded, randomized controlled trial testing the efficacy of RESCUE, an HAI intervention, as a viable adjunctive treatment component for PE. METHODS/DESIGN: The study will include 70 veterans with PTSD treated at a Southeastern Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). All participants in the trial receive up to 12 sessions of PE. Participants are randomly assigned 1:1 to (1) volunteer at a local animal shelter or (2) volunteer at a community agency of their choice as part of their in-vivo exposure exercises for PE. Outcomes will be examined via standard clinical interviews, self-report questionnaires, and thematic interviews. DISCUSSION: It is hypothesized that participants in the HAI condition will report greater decreases in emotional-numbing symptoms and increased treatment compliance and completion rates relative to those in the community volunteer condition. If successful, RESCUE, could be easily incorporated into standard PE and broadly disseminated. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov. ID: NCT03504722. Retrospectively registered on 2 May 2017.

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