Seated man bent over working a pottery wheel

Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network

Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers.

The program places creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at clinical sites throughout the country, including telehealth services, and increases access to community arts activities to promote health, well-being and quality of life for military service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers. Creative Forces is managed in partnership with Americans for the Arts, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, and Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Recent Updates:

CREATIVE FORCES NETWORK

We are building a national network of care and support for trauma-exposed active duty service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers, in medical treatment or transitioning back home to their bases and communities.

The program has three components:

  • CLINICAL—Creative Forces is placing creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at military medical and Veterans Health Administration facilities, including telehealth delivery of care for patients in rural and remote areas. In clinical settings, creative arts therapists provide art, music, and dance/movement therapies, as well as therapeutic writing instruction, for military patients and veterans.
  • COMMUNITY—Since 2017, Creative Forces has invested in community arts engagement activities in order to advance our understanding of their benefits and impacts for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma. In 2021, the NEA announced the Creative Forces Community Engagement grants to support emerging and established non-clinical arts engagement projects.
  • CAPACITY—Creative Forces invests in capacity-building efforts, including the development of toolkits, training materials, and other resources to support best practices in serving the target populations. In addition, Creative Forces is investing in research on the impacts and benefits—physical, social, and emotional—of these innovative treatment methods. Visit Creative Forces’ National Resource Center to learn more and to read all research associated with Creative Forces.
Graphic showing the relationship between the clinical, community, and capacity compnents of the program

THE NEED

There is a growing need in our country to address TBI and PTSD. Research shows that in the United States an estimated 2.8 million people sustain a TBI annually and eight million have PTSD. More than 400,000 men and women of our armed services have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000 and 11-20 percent of all veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD in a given year.

We have seen how creative arts therapies have helped service members deal with trauma as part of an integrated care model. And when they return home, these interventions make a difference in people’s lives that medicine alone could not achieve.

PROGRAM HISTORY

The National Endowment for the Arts’ partnership with the Department of Defense dates back to 2004 when Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience was created by the Arts Endowment to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. From 2004-2006, Operation Homecoming provided more than 60 writing workshops to troops and their families at more than 30 military installations in the U.S. and overseas. A later phase brought writing workshops to veterans and active duty troops at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, military hospitals, and affiliated centers in communities around the country. More than 6,000 people participated in Operation Homecoming workshops and related activities.

In 2011, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Walter Reed Bethesda invited the Arts Endowment to help build out its creative arts therapy program. In 2012, the Operation Homecoming writing workshops became part of the clinical program at NICoE. After successfully piloting the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership there, the NICoE Intrepid Spirit-1 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia invited the National Endowment for the Arts to replicate the program in their new integrative care facility. The NICoE’s groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approach to working with patients and their families—which ranges from physical and neurological exams, to family evaluation, nutrition, alternative medicine, and creative arts therapies—became the model for the expanded healing arts partnership. The partnership involved support for therapeutic writing as well as multiple creative arts therapies (art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy) at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir. 

Congress has encouraged the National Endowment for the Arts’ continued efforts with the Military Healing Arts Network and annual funding increases have allowed the Arts Endowment to expand the reach and impact of this national initiative under the title of Creative Forces to include more than a dozen Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs clinical sites, telehealth services, research, program analytics, an online National Resource Center, and a community arts grant program.