Art Therapy & Military

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Child's Painting--Source Unknown

Child’s Painting–Source Unknown

From Art Therapy for Combat-Related PTSD: Recommendations for Research and Practice [Collie, Backos, Malchiodi, & Spiegel, 2006]: With a new generation of American combat veterans returning from Iraq, the nation has an obligation to do everything possible to improve care for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although art therapy has been understudied in this context, it shows promise as a means of treating hard-to-treat symptoms of combat-related PTSD, such as avoidance and emotional numbing, while also addressing the underlying psychological situation that gives rise to these symptoms. In this paper, the authors establish a conceptual foundation for research about art therapy as a treatment for combat-related PTSD by situating art therapy within the context of other PTSD treatments, outlining a theoretical rationale for using art therapy as a treatment for PTSD, and clarifying “best practices” for using art therapy as a treatment for combat-related PTSD. They recommend group treatment in three stages and suggest that art therapists who treat combat-related PTSD receive specialized training in trauma intervention and PTSD theory. Download a PDF from the ERIC database here.



A short poetry reading by Viet Nam War Veteran Larry Winters captures the power of words to convey combat’s mark on the human soul and helps us to momentarily bear witness to the universal nature of war’s impact:


“Words of War, Words of Peace,” from Psychology Today: It’s a form of emotional reparation that goes by many names: poetry therapy, poetic medicine, and creative journaling, to name a few. The use of writing to heal goes back as far as the fourth millennium BC in Egypt when words were written on papyrus, dissolved in liquid, and ingested by the sufferer. And in more modern times, poetry therapy has emerged as a formal discipline whose practitioners use to address emotional disorders or simply as a means personal growth.