The National Endowment for the Arts is at the forefront of a national effort to support arts and health in the military. The NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership supports creative art therapy programs to help our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families in their recovery, reintegration or transition to civilian life.
The NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership began in 2011, when the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Walter Reed Bethesda invited the NEA to help build out its creative arts therapy program. This is one of several new regional centers using an integrative healthcare model to treat service members with traumatic brain injury and associated psychological health issues. After successfully piloting the program at Walter Reed, the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Brain Wellness Center in Virginia invited the NEA to replicate the program in their new integrative care facility in November 2013. The partnership now involves support for multiple creative arts therapy disciplines (therapeutic writing, art therapy and music therapy) at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir. The NEA is also collaborating on a research project with the NICoE and Drexel University’s Creative Arts Therapy PhD program involving a thematic analysis of masks created through the art therapy program at Walter Reed Bethesda.
Creative arts therapy activities include visual art therapy activities such as mask-making and montage painting, as well as expressive writing. Participating Fort Belvoir service members described multiple benefits of these interventions: the ability to process trauma, and increased capacity to address issues related to identity, frustrations, transitions, grief, cognitive skills and memory.
The NEA-supported creative writing workshops were inspired by the NEA's acclaimed program Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which launched in 2004 to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside.