Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network


An important component of the Creative Forces program are investments in research on the impacts and benefits – physical, emotional, economic – of these innovative treatment methods.

The Creative Forces Clinical Research Summit took place September 18-19, 2017 at the National Academies of Science in Washington, DC. The event was an opportunity to gather world-renowned experts to discuss clinical approaches to creative arts therapies.

Creative Forces Clinical Research: A Strategic Framework and Five-Year Agenda (2018-2022)
This strategic framework, first discussed during the Clinical Research Summit, establishes the strategic objectives for Creative Forces clinical research and provides a five-year plan for achieving those objectives.

Creative Forces Research and Clinical Practice Papers

This section provides links to published research and clinical practice papers associated with Creative Forces. A catalogue of completed, current, and pending research and clinical practice papers is included in the Creative Forces Research Inventory.

Observational study of associations between visual imagery and measures of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress among active-duty military service members with traumatic brain injury at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
The study aimed to compare recurring themes in the artistic expression of military service members (SMs) with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and psychological health (PH) conditions with measurable psychiatric diagnoses. Affective symptoms and struggles related to verbally expressing information can limit communication in individuals with symptoms of PTSD and deployment-related health conditions. Visual self-expression through art therapy is an alternative way for SMs with PTSD and other PH conditions to communicate their lived experiences. This study offers the first systematic examination of the associations between visual self-expression and standardized clinical self-report measures.

Music Therapy treatment of active duty military: An overview of intensive outpatient and longitudinal care programs
In recent years, there has been increased demand for music therapy services within military treatment facilities to treat combat-related injuries. This demand is partly due to increased research output related to music interventions in neuro-rehabilitation as well as an increased prevalence of signature injuries including traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder for which interdisciplinary patient-centered care is recommended. The complexity of traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress, and military service itself presents challenges for music therapists when creating patient-centered program models. As military healthcare increases access to new treatments as a standard of care, it is important for music therapists to provide descriptions of effective treatment models in military settings. Outlining established music therapy models of care is essential to the successful addition of music therapy in the treatment of service members’ complex injuries. This paper outlines current program models at two facilities, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Intrepid Spirit Center at Fort Belvoir.

Music therapy applied to complex blast injury in an interdisciplinary model: A case report
Music therapy has a long history of treating the physiological, psychological, and neurological injuries of war. Recently, there has been an increase in the use of music therapy and other creative arts therapies in the care of combat injured service members returning to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan, especially those with complex blast-related injuries. This case report describes the role of music therapy in the interdisciplinary rehabilitation of a severely injured service member.

Art therapy interventions for active duty military service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
This paper provides an overview of short and long-term art therapy treatment approaches, used in the USA, for military service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The described clinical approaches are based on the theoretical foundations and the art therapists’ experiences in providing individualized care for the unique needs of the patient population. The art therapy models and directives are designed to be more therapist-led in the short-term model, moving on to an increasingly patient-led format in the long-term treatment model.

Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey
This case study presents the therapeutic process through art therapy in the case of a senior active duty military service member (with chronic PTSD and TBI), in the context of an integrated model of care that included medical and complementary therapies.

Active-duty military service members’ visual representations of PTSD and TBI in masks
Active-duty military service members have a significant risk of sustaining physical and psychological trauma resulting in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Within an interdisciplinary treatment approach at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, service members participated in mask making during art therapy sessions. This study presents an analysis of the mask-making experiences of service members (n = 370) with persistent symptoms from combat-and mission-related TBI, PTSD, and other concurrent mood issues.

The National Endowment for the Arts Guide to Community-Engaged Research in the Arts and Health
Responding to a need identified by the federal Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development, the NEA commissioned this guide from the cognitive neuroscientist Julene Johnson, PhD, UCSF, and the arts consultant Jeff Chapline, New Art Horizons. It advises arts practitioners and biomedical or behavioral health researchers how to partner effectively in documenting and studying the contributions of community-based arts programs to positive health outcomes.