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Nicole Porter, OTD, MS, OTR/L; Gary Bedell, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA; Jason Getzler, BS; Megan Mueller, PhD


Background: Social anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health challenges of adolescence and profoundly impacts social participation. This study obtained adolescent and parent feedback to inform a future modification of Social Navigation and Participation (SPAN) for use with adolescents with social anxiety incorporating pet dogs.

Methods: The study had two phases: Phase 1 included interviews with adolescents with social anxiety (n = 8) about their social participation experiences, strategies, pet dogs, and thoughts on a proposed intervention to promote social participation; and Phase 2 included on-line survey completed by the adolescents and their parents (n = 14) assessing likelihood to engage in proposed components of the future modified SPAN intervention.

Results: The adolescents identified social participation challenges consistent with prior literature, including fear of judgement and larger group avoidance, and supportive features of the relationship with their pet-dogs. The adolescents reported a high likelihood of engaging in the coaching aspects of SPAN and pet-dog assisted strategies. Findings reflected the necessity of flexibility and individualization of the proposed SPAN modification to address adolescent and parental needs.

Conclusion: Results provided insights that informed the future SPAN modification and highlighted areas to consider for occupational therapists and others who work with adolescents with social anxiety and incorporate animal-assisted activities into practice.


The authors declare that they have no competing financial, professional, or personal interest that might have influenced the performance or presentation of the work described in this manuscript.