Art Therapy – Is It Really a thing?

"Probably Not", says a bearded teenager
“Probably Not”, says a bearded teenager

ART THERAPY, POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, AND VETERANS

From the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) ____________________________________________________

About Art Therapy Art therapy can be beneficial to people of all ages, including adults who have emotional, cognitive, and /or physical disabilities. Our nation’s Veterans often return home with acute psychological or medical conditions that impair functioning, disrupt family relationships, and prevent reentry into the workforce. Others may develop chronic disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that require months or even years of counseling or rehabilitation. For Veterans who are receiving psychiatric care for PTSD and other emotional conditions, art therapy can be an effective form of treatment, either as a adjunct to other therapies or as a form of individual or group psychotherapy. Senator Bob Graham (FL) emphasized the value of art therapy with US veterans in The Congressional Record, stating: “Art therapists provide effective treatment and health maintenance intervention for veterans, focusing on all of their life 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…Given the number of veterans gradually returning from the current war in Iraq, art therapy has the potential to assist them as a form of rehabilitation.” Members of the American Art Therapy Association hope that the following information will give you a greater understanding of how art therapy can be used in the treatment of our nation’s veterans and offers unique value in enhancing and improving mental health. ______________________________________________________________________ Art therapists use a a wide variety of art-based techniques in the assessment and treatment of adults. For combat veterans of recent or previous conflicts, art therapy provides ways to express feelings and experiences that are difficult to express verbally. As a form of psychotherapy, art therapy helps veterans communicate and resolve traumatic memories, relieve stress, and reduce symptoms of trauma-related conditions. Art therapists encourage Veterans to reflect on the meaning of their artwork to assist their psychological recovery, promote insight, and improve functioning. For veterans in extended care facilities or hospitals, art therapy helps enhance quality of life by providing a meaningful creative vocation to increase self-esteem and a sense of personal selfworth. Based on their knowledge of art materials, human development, and physical, mental, and emotional conditions, art therapists select specific drawing, painting, or sculpting activities to augment cognitive, psychological, and physical rehabilitation. Art therapy has been a valuable part of mental health services offered by Veteran’s Hospitals (VA) since 1945 when the Winter VA Hospital in Topeka, KS, offered art therapy as part of their psychiatric services to returning World War II veterans. By 1980, a job series was established to facilitate the hiring of arts therapists nationwide– the GS638 series for Creative Arts Therapists and Recreation Therapists. Today, art therapists are employed in VA hospitals and offer therapeutic services to military personnel and their families in hospitals such as Walter Reed in Washington, 1-888-290-0878 www.arttherapy.org info@arttherapy.org

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