Evaluating the Impact of a Mindfulness-Based Anxiety Intervention with Therapy Dog Support in High School Students

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.S. in School Psychology


Department of Counselor Education and Human Services


Elana Bernstein


Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorders impacting today’s children and adolescents. Based on recent studies, a growing number of young adults in the United States are being diagnosed with mental health disorders, including anxiety due to hormonal changes in combination with a need to achieve, unlimited access to technology, peer pressure, easy access to substances, and so forth. Therapy dogs are being used to intervene in schools and help students cope with symptoms related to anxiety. The present study examined the impact of incorporating a therapy dog in a mindfulness-based intervention aimed at reducing anxiety in adolescents. The study was implemented in a high school setting with three students who demonstrated elevated levels of anxiety, measured by the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children 2nd Edition. The participants rated their anxiety symptoms before and after each mindfulness intervention session using the Subject Units of Distress Scale (SUDS). A therapy dog was incorporated into sessions on an alternating schedule to examine resulting changes in the effectiveness of the intervention. Findings indicated that the therapy dog along with the mindfulness intervention reduced anxiety more than the mindfulness intervention sessions alone. Implications for incorporating school-based therapy dogs to support students who experience anxiety at school are discussed.


anxiety, anxiety in schools, therapy dog support in schools, reducing anxiety with therapy dog support, therapy dogs in schools

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