Occupational Therapy Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.


College of Health Care Sciences – Occupational Therapy Department

First Advisor

Kristin Winston

Second Advisor

Dana Mills

Third Advisor

Rosanne DiZazzo-Miller

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


Problem Statement: There is a growing concern regarding college student well-being that requires a need for implementation of cost-effective interventions addressing the increasing number of students experiencing negative mental health symptoms. Studies from medical and educational settings suggested positive mental health benefits from animal assisted intervention (AAI). Researchers studying college students exposed to animals during periods of high academic stress demonstrated successful reductions in stress and anxiety; however, researchers have not examined a specific area of dosage, including the influence of recurring AAI (more than one session) in the graduatestudent population. Furthermore, researchers have failed to include each element of dosage in their studies. Purpose: This study investigated the effects of AAI on well-being, including QOL, stress, anxiety, occupational performance, and adjustment with graduate college students. Methodology: A quantitative, experimental, within and between subjects, pre-post randomized control trial was implemented. Procedures:Recruitment included 104 participants. Participants in the experimental group engaged in a recurring weekly 35-minute AAI intervention for six weeks. Participants in the control were told they are on a waitlist and were given the opportunity to engage in the intervention following posttest data collection. Data Analyses: A one-way ANCOVA analyzed between subjects data and paired t-tests analyzed within subjects data. Graduate college students experienced a statistically significant effect in three areas of well-being, including increased QOL, decreased stress and anxiety. Students did not experience significant effects in the areas of occupational performance and adjustment to the graduatestudent role.


Occupational Therapy


Animal assisted intervention, Canine assisted intervention, Graduate students, Mental health, Stress, Well-being