Art therapy is a powerful method of expression. It is one way many Veterans and families are finding that may offer great benefit in dealing with challenges and the possibility of inspiring joy.
VA has provided free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound Veterans for generations.
The creative arts program helps injured and recuperating Veterans improve fine motor skills and cognitive functioning.
It helps them manage stress and substance abuse, and cope with symptoms of PTSD and TBI.
Marine Corps Veteran Dionte Newton displays his artwork completed at the Creative Art Clinic at Northport VA.
It also improves their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health.
Arts therapies are part of VA’s Recreation Therapy Service direct-care programs. These include art therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy and music therapy.
Creative arts therapists are credentialed professionals
Creative arts therapists like Gina Trezza are highly skilled, credentialed professionals having completed extensive coursework and clinical training. Art therapy is a counseling profession that uses the process of art making to help patients enhance their well-being physically, spiritually and emotionally.
“Studies have shown the process of creating art has therapeutic benefits and discussing art can facilitate self-expression and lead to greater insight about oneself,” said Trezza, who runs the art therapy program at Northport VA Medical Center.
“I work with the patient and we work together to identify therapeutic goals and the best ways to achieve them,” she said. “Art therapy does not rely on verbal communication alone. It enables a therapeutic rapport to develop with people who are unable or choose not to express their feelings in words but who would benefit from having someone ‘bear witness’ to their experience.
“I am so honored by the patients who share their stories and experiences with me and their meaningful art.”
“The process of making something is important.”
Navy Veteran Rosemary Lamb-Mourey has been practicing her art at Northport VA for the past four years. Previously, she had not painted in over 25 years.
Air Force Veteran Jan Klebukowski participates in group session at the Creative Arts Clinic.
“Gina is a phenomenal therapist. She is supportive and creates such a warm and welcoming space. You can tap into creativity while dealing with the emotions that this journey brings to the surface.
“I have learned that the process of making something, even if it doesn’t turn out the way I would have liked or takes longer than I expected, is just as important as finishing a project that I love.
“I’ve learned to be gentler with myself and that it’s good to make space to experiment and see what happens.”
Lamb-Mourey’s works have also been displayed at the VA Center for Women’s Veterans Art Exhibit in collaboration with Veterans Art Venue at Columbia University.
Therapists promote creative self-expression
Research supports the effectiveness of creative arts therapies interventions in many areas, including overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement.
Creative arts therapies help patients increase motivation to engage in treatment. They also provide emotional support for Veterans and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings.
These therapies are viable treatment options. Creative arts therapists create non-threatening group and individualized artistic experiences for individuals of all ages who confront life challenges related to physical and mental health conditions on a daily basis.
Creative arts therapists provide and promote personally driven and individually focused creative self-expression.
Each year, VA sponsors the National Creative Arts Festival for Veterans served at VA medical centers nationwide. VA, Veteran Service Organizations and civic groups co-sponsor the event.