In an article published by the American Art Therapy Association, it is stated that art therapy assists veterans as a form of rehabilitation. Even Senator Bob Graham (from Florida) speaks to the benefits of this new form of therapy saying, "Art therapists provide effective treatment and health maintenance intervention for veterans, focusing on all of their like challenges, such as mental, physical, and cognitive impairments. Intense emotion and memory, often difficult to convey in words, often are more easily expressed in images with the guidance of a trained clinician." Thus, Art Therapy has been available at VA hospitals since the year 1945, as part of their mental health services. Services are now offered at VA facilities across the country though TRICARE, managed health
care, and other programs for military, reserve, and retired service men and women.
The article explains that mediums other than the usual drawing with crayons or markers on paper are used-- including painting and sculpting. But how does it help? With a little bit of light research, I found some further information on the subject. Art Therapy, or Art Expression, allows military personnel with mental health issues by encouraging self-expression and expression of concerns. It also allows clinicians to observe depression and so assist in its relief and in reality orientation.
While the effects of art therapy in treating PTSD are still being studied, it is so far looking quite positive. In PTSD specifically, Art Expression helps in reducing anxiety and mood disorders, reduces behaviors interfering with emotional and cognitive functioning, and externalizing/verbalizing and resolving memories of traumatic events. It also reactivates positive emotions of self-worth and self-esteem.
Art therapy also works towards the treatment of substance abuse by assisting veterans in understanding their addictions and making a personal commitment to sobriety. It also also helps veterans dealing with substance abuse to experience spirituality through way of self-expression, and increases overall quality of life in assisted care and hospices.
When being used in a hospice/assisted care setting, Art Expression embraces strength, courageousness, and pride of military personnel as it helps these patients to create "visual records of their autobiographies, memories, and legacies," while reducing stress and increasing cognitive skills. In addition, when veterans are undergoing physical rehabilitation, Art Therapy increases the controlled use of fine motor skills, acceptance of physical changes and injuries, and promotes discovery of new strengths.
Now, what are veterans saying about Art Therapy as a form of recovery? Roy Meadors of Topeka, Kansas, a vet who spent four and a half months in Vietnam, said art therapy gave him a "non-threatening place for social interaction," as well as helping him to express his emotions and pursue other activities.
There are also testimonials from multiple other patients, as well as one from Steve Piscatelli, who also spent time in Vietnam. Piscatelli did not discover Art Therapy until quite recently, and claims that had he not found it, he probably would have committed suicide along with the many others who did.
The American Art Therapy Association, or ATTA, is really dedicated to pursuing the use of Art Therapy to assist veterans. The ATTA is definitely a source I will need to further look into throughout my research. The article I have referenced in this entry is available at the following address: