By: Sterling Medical Staff
A social worker has developed a non-traditional method of treating service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) who have not responded to traditional treatment methods. What is unique about the Warrior Canine Connection (WCC), developed by Rick Yount, MS, LSW? As the name implies, the program treats military members by pairing them with canine companions, which they train to eventually become service dogs for mobility-impaired veterans.
Rick Yount created the first soldier-dog training program in 2008 after working in the child welfare system where he noticed the therapeutic value of involving his golden retriever, Gabe with the children. The program was so effective that the military invited Yount to design a service dog training program for its National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). The NICoE aims to treat service members with psychological health conditions who have not responded to traditional therapies.
The patients of the WCC are given the mission of training a 12-week old future service dog, and in doing so are forced to confront many of the issues experienced by those suffering from PTSD and TBI. Introducing the puppy to new environments, keeping it calm in arousing situations, and developing a close bond requires one to confront issues of self-isolation, anxiety, and emotional numbness.
Rather than honing in on clinical symptoms and treating patient deficiencies, the WCC approach instead seeks to empower soldiers by giving them a task that utilizes their strengths and serves a greater purpose. In this way, the WCC’s approach is in line with the warrior ethos of the army: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
Driven by the mission to aide their wounded comrades and holding to ethos of never accepting defeat, many soldiers have already benefited from this unique new treatment and so far the WCC has been a rousing success.
- “Warrior Canine Connection — Puppy Training Program Tackles PTSD and TBI” by Lynne Soine, DSW, MSW, LMSW in Social Work Today, Vol. 13 No. 4 P. 16