Mental health disorders among youth are often underrepresented in research, resulting in a delay and under-treatment of their needs (Catania et al., 2011). While their needs are frequently under-treated, research suggests that youth often experience mental health problems that subsequently lead to difficulties in adulthood (Carballo et al., 2011) necessitating a need to identify efficacious treatments to these problems. This systematic review used a mixed-methods design to analyze current literature on the use of Canine-Assisted Psychotherapy (CAP) with youth ages 0-20. The aims of the study were to (a) understand the impact of CAP on mental health (i.e., clinical diagnosis and symptomatology) and therapeutic factors (i.e., factors of benefit to the therapeutic process or participant welfare) for youth at risk or with mental health disorders and (b) investigate the characteristics of CAP interventions (e.g., illustration of the intervention including: underlying theories, the role of the canine(s) in treatment, the role of the therapist(s) in treatment, activities during treatment; description of the canine including: breed, age, training) identified in the literature. This review found mixed results, with CAP interventions being found to reduce symptoms of mood disorders, PTSD, anger problems and disruptive behaviors among youth. The results also suggested that CAP interventions were efficacious in increasing self-esteem and therapeutic factors among youth at risk or with mental health disorders.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Child psychotherapy; Adolescent psychotherapy; Child mental health; Psychiatric service dogs

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Amy Tuttle