Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network

About Creative Forces

The NEA and Department of Defense have expanded its military healing arts program into Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. The expanded Creative Forces program places creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at ten additional clinical sites – for a total of twelve – and increases access to therapeutic arts activities in local communities for military members, veterans, and their families. The program is also investing in research on the impacts and benefits of these innovative treatment methods.

Since 2011, this military healing arts partnership has supported creative arts therapies for service members with traumatic brain injury and associated psychological health issues at two military medical facilities in the Washington, DC, area—the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed Bethesda in Maryland, and the NICoE Intrepid Spirit-1 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. The President and Congress recognized the success of the program at these facilities, and believed it could do more. In fiscal year 2016, Congress appropriated a $1.98 million budget increase for the NEA, specifically allocated to expand this military healing arts program.

See the Creative Forces Fact Sheet and the Healing Arts infographic about how creativity can promote healing and well-being.

"As a DVBIC (Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center) site subsumed under a Mental Health Flight, we understand not only the effects of TBI and PTSD but the need for more options and opportunities to process the mental, emotional, and physical concerns that keep our service members and veterans from the quality of life they deserve. The Creative Forces initiative brings those options, and we are honored to be a part of it." — Jaime J. Pons-Valerio, Maj, USAF, BSC, PsyD, Director, mTBI Clinic, JBER-Elmendorf, Alaska

Creative Forces has three components:


Creative Forces is bringing creative arts therapies to 12 locations in 2017. The NEA is providing funding for creative arts therapists including, but not limited to, art and music therapists, creative writing instructors, as well as equipment and supplies at these locations. In addition, the NEA provides other program support, such as tele-health programs, training and curriculum support, data collection, and research and evaluation. For more information on how to apply for a creative arts therapist position, please go here.


The NEA is working closely with its network of state, local, and regional arts agencies and nonprofit partners to develop community-based arts programs that allow patients to continue exploring art practices as part of their healing process. In addition to military service members, these programs will be available for veterans, families, and caregivers to access arts programming.

Community-based arts programs offer many benefits:

  • They allow people to explore the therapeutic benefits of art
  • They offer former patients opportunities to continue beneficial arts programming initiated during treatment
  • They support reintegration for people leaving a medical center
  • They offer a de-stigmatized option for those who may benefit from creative arts therapy in the clinical setting


The NEA is creating an online toolkit and resources to help communities understand how to support service members, veterans, and their families through arts programming. This includes guidance on how to build deeper connections across civilian and military populations. Creative Forces will also explore how tele-therapy can be employed to extend therapeutic reach.

The NEA is also investing in research on the impacts – biological, psycho-social, behavioral, and economic – of these arts-based interventions. This includes a partnership with the Creative Arts Therapies PhD program at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Together, the NEA, Drexel, and the NICoE are supporting research on themes communicated through mask making from active duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. As part of this project, a case study examining long-term art therapy with a senior military service member with PTSD and TBI is available here. The results will inform research and treatment that applies to all patient communities.