Blog Posts for arts and healing

Start Your Own Workshop

Posted by Drew Cameron, May 14, 2013 0 comments

Drew Cameron, photo by Drew Cameron, photo by Kari Ovik

Like many recently separated veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan era of wars, I enrolled into community college as soon as I left active duty. The war I had been a part of was just two years old and I remained uncertain about identifying as having been in the military. I was a diligent student and kept to myself but enjoyed the classroom dialogue. Occasionally related material about the wars would surface and I would share my perspective with the class. There was always a sudden quiet when I chose to speak about the war as a veteran, as if I had a just trumped the other’s ability to have a contribution any further in fear of offending or denigrating mine. “I can’t imagine what it was like over there,” was the collective sentiment much to my dismay.

Workshop in progress, photo courtesy of Combat Paper Workshop in progress, photo courtesy of Combat Paper

Fast-forward a few more years of deployments, a growing population of young veterans filtering back into towns across America, the demanding fervor of war fighting and the inevitable growth of arts groups, workshops and collections of activists seeking to illuminate the complexity of it all. Yet still, our common greeting of the day for those who have returned from war is, “Thank you, welcome home, I don’t know if I have the framework to understand your experience.” There it is, but if you honestly asked yourself, don’t you want to know?

Since beginning to facilitate workshops with veteran and civilian communities in 2006 with the group Warrior Writers and then Combat Paper Project, I have noticed a growing trend in others seeking to do the same thing. Historically there is a strong tradition of individuals, groups, and organizations turning to the arts to investigate and connect affected communities in warfare. Today, whether it intuition or mandate, I am encouraged at how the arts are once again connecting not only the veteran population but civilians as well through a massive growth in workshop based practice.

Read More

The Arts as a Medium for Veterans' Re-entry and Healing

Posted by John Schratwieser, May 14, 2013 0 comments

John Schratwieser John Schratwieser

Something very special happened at the 2013 Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 400 arts professionals from all over the state. The ovation was not for a Hollywood star, nor a seasoned lawmaker, nor a favorite professional athlete. No, on that day, the ovation was for four men and one woman. These were regular people, people who in fact studied art and voice and film in college, and the in the wake of September 11, 2001, a fierce sense of duty clicked in. They put their art on hold and served their country.  Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were all represented in this unassuming group of heroes.  These five individuals are founding members of the Veteran Artist Program (VAP), a nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, whose mission is simply “to foster, encourage and promote Veteran artists.” VAP reconnects the artist in the warrior to the mainstream arts community through mentorship, networking, collaborations with professional artists and arts organizations, and through original productions.

My first introduction to VAP was at one of these original productions. “The Telling Project” directed by VAP Founder BR McDonald, was performed all over Maryland in 2011 and the first part of 2012.  Put simply, this work was a collection of stories from service members, woven together into a script, and then rehearsed and performed by the same service members. There was no sugar coating. This was an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland to hear firsthand about the experiences of our men and women in uniform (and, in this case, from their families too.) VAP is also currently engaged in a juried exhibition process for a major show of veteran artwork which will hang in the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. Using all artistic disciplines, VAP is one of many organizations springing up around the country whose primary purpose is to use the arts to help veterans “re-enter”.  Helping our veterans re-connect to home is work we should all be engaged in.

It was Maryland Citizens for the Arts’ (MCA) Board Chair, Doug Mann, who first suggested we should find a way for the arts sector to honor our veterans at the 2013 Maryland Arts Day. When I mentioned my experience with VAP it was obvious that we would involve them. With VAP, we had an opportunity not just to honor, but to engage, promote and collaborate with veterans through our everyday work. It was the perfect partnership.  VAP is just three years old and although they have had many large scale successes already, Maryland Arts Day was the ideal venue to connect them to the creative and diverse organizations from every corner of our state. 

Read More

How Music is"Striking a Chord" in Healing

Posted by Susan Rockefeller, May 13, 2013 0 comments

Susan Rockefeller Susan Rockefeller

It was through a fluke really that I learned how much the arts-––in this case music––can help military service men and women heal, even those struggling with issues as complex and embedded as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My son, Henry, was taking drum lessons from a musician who’d recently toured Iraq playing for the troops as a part of Nell Bryden’s band. They were headed back for a second tour in a month. He described to Henry and me what it felt like to see these men and women start the evening often withdrawn, sullen and exhausted, then, with the first chord of the guitar, to watch smiles blossom across their faces and their shoulders relax, many of them even jumping out of their chairs to dance. After the show the troops would line up to express their deep gratitude to the band for having volunteered their time to bring them a moment of joy.

Something about this story captured my heart. And while I knew very little at that point about the high rates of suicide amongst our returning service members or about how prevalent PTSD was or even about the true healing powers of music, by the very next day I was already making arrangements to document Nell Bryden’ upcoming tour.

I’m glad my instincts lead me in this direction. Eventually I learned that music could supply more than a moment of joy. It could kickstart a lifetime of profound healing. As Concetta Tomaino from the Institute for Music & Neurologic Function notes “Music reaches the depths of our being – and when our connection to self has been damaged by trauma and loss – music can be a powerful tool to revive us.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I began editing my film I was struck by how music opened up these troops’ hearts and minds. Especially the live performances. The music seemed to act as a conduit between the service members and those around them. This felt profound to me. So often when we are experiencing any sort of suffering, we think we’re alone in that experience and that sense of isolation then heightens the baseline suffering. In other words, our own perceptions of our situation can make us suffer more, albeit unintentionally. Watching these young men and women come together, I could see some of the protective walls they’d build crumbling, even if it was only for the duration of the song. But the fact that it could happen at all was a very promising sign.

Read More

Music Helps the Military and Healing

Posted by Rebecca Vaudreuil, May 13, 2013 6 comments

Rebecca Vaudreuil Rebecca Vaudreuil

Military service members are returning home in mass quantities nation-wide, some locations more prevalently populated and therefore more noticeable than others, such as in San Diego where Resounding Joy’s Semper Sound Military Music Therapy Program is based. 13% of all active duty military service members are stationed in California and San Diego has one of the largest military populations and is home to thousands of service members and their families. The need for service is ubiquitous and it is our calling to serve those who protect our freedoms as Americans.

The ever-compelling questions of, “WHY music?” and more commonly , “HOW can music therapy help returning veterans?” is answered  in the complete music therapy  definition as released by the American Music Therapy Association stating,Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”  Music therapy was founded after WWII when psychologists at the VA in Topeka, Kansas saw the advantageous affects that music created by volunteer musicians had on the veterans. Psychologists began to train these volunteer musicians in the realm of behavioral psychology and hence the commencement of the music   therapy degree, which can be earned on the bachelors, masters, and PhD levels from accredited universities.

In addition to this concise yet comprehensive definition, music therapy is used to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, promote physical rehabilitation and very importantly with the military, provide reintegration opportunities.

Table 1:1  Pre/Post Music Therapy Pain and Anxiety Scales ; Observation Length- 8 weeks; n= 15New Picture (5)

Read More

Understanding the Value of Art Therapy

Posted by Melissa Walker, May 13, 2013 1 comment

Melissa Walker Melissa Walker

A fit, uniformed Marine sat before me, focusing intently on the task at hand. He had been working on creating a mask now for almost two hours. He had never in his life engaged in anything like this before.

This Marine had recently arrived anxious, confused and angry. After 23 years of service to his country, he felt broken and hopeless. Multiple blast injuries had upset his cognitive abilities and caused daily headaches. Traumatic memories were constantly clouding his thoughts. He worried for the safety of his family. He was overwhelmed.

Suddenly, the Marine looked up at me. “I’m finished,” he declared. He stared at the mask, which was covered in symbolism only he could understand. I wouldn’t even begin to try and interpret his intentions, but I wouldn’t have to. He hesitated, then began pointing out each area of the mask and explaining its significance.

Afterwards, the Marine stared at me, shocked. “I can’t believe I just told you all of that. I’ve never been able to explain what was bothering me before. And now here it is… all in one place.”

A Marine who felt broken had for the first time found a way to put all of the pieces together. He would later describe the art therapy process as the key to his healing. “It released the block,” he explained, “and then my treatment just soared. For the first time in 23 years I could actually talk openly to anyone, because it unlocked it.”

Art Therapy at the NICoE
Art therapy is a psychotherapeutic process during which a trained therapist utilizes art-making as a symbolic vehicle for communication with the patient (click here to read a lengthier definition of art therapy as well as view practice requirements via the American Art Therapy Association). At the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), service members coping with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and psychological health concerns are assessed and treated over a four-week integrated care program. According to the National Center for PTSD, Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is often referred to as the “signature injury” of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and service members who have experienced mTBI are at increased risk of depression and underlying psychological health (PH) conditions to include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Summerall, 2007).

Read More

Pages