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Interdisciplinary supports for student mental health: Pets Assisting With Student Success - PAWSS at MacEwan University

Faculty Advisor




post-secondary students, mental health, animal-assisted therapy, trauma-informed practice, Pets Assisting with Student Success (PAWSS)

Abstract (summary)

Student mental health is a critical concern in academic environments, where the pressures of academic life can significantly impact well-being. This study investigates the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in alleviating mental health challenges. Collaborating with the Pet Assisting With Student Success (PAWSS) program at MacEwan University, we aimed to understand how interactions with therapy animals could benefit students. Employing a qualitative phenomenological approach, we gathered data on student experiences with the PAWSS program through Qualtrics. Through the survey, we explored the way in which the program influenced students' daily lives and their ease of accessing these therapeutic interactions and considered improvements that could be made to make the program more accessible to students. Participants consistently reported reductions in anxiety and stress after engaging with the PAWSS events or encountering therapy animals in hallways. Our poster includes common themes about students’ experiences with the PAWSS program, which are visually reflective through NVivo. Our findings highlight the profound positive impact of animal-assisted therapy on student stress levels and overall mental health. The human-animal bond fostered through the PAWSS program not only provides immediate relief but also cultivates a supportive campus environment. This research underscores the value of interdisciplinary approaches to mental health support and the transformative potential of integrating animal-assisted therapy into university settings.

Publication Information



Presented on April 19, 2024 at Student Research Day held at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.

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