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"Art therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs. Art therapy uses art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self."

--The Art Therapy Alliance

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"We use the creative art process to facilitate personal well-being."

--Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy (NIGAT)

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Through papermaking workshops veterans use their uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beat and formed into sheets of paper. Veterans use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to embrace their experiences as a soldier in war.

--Combat Paper Project

Art Therapy, Trauma Intervention, and Military

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 Combat Veteran Asks Himself, Who Am I, on the Inside? A first person account from Healing Combat Trauma website: "The combat veteran, one with decades of severe PTSD, asks himself that question, and the answer that comes back isn't pretty. "What's your biggest problem right now?" he was asked, and then handed some implements with which to draw his answer. Describe what you've drawn, he was asked. "My biggest problem?" he said, "It's that I'm 'an exploding ball of hate'...on the inside." © by Lily Casura. Read more here.

"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.

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:

Combat Paper Project

From the Combat Paper Project home page: The story of the soldier, the Marine, the men and the women and the journeys within the military service in a time of war is the basis for this project. The goal is to utilize art as a means to help veterans reconcile their personal experiences as well as broaden the traditional narrative surrounding service, honor and the military culture. Through papermaking workshops veterans use their uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beat and formed into sheets of paper. Veterans use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to embrace their experiences as a soldier in war.

The Combat Paper Project is based out of Green Door Studio in Burlington, VT and has traveled throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, providing veterans' workshops, exhibitions, performances and artists' talks. This project is made possible by a multifaceted collaboration between artists, art collectors, academic institutions and combat veterans. Through ongoing participation in the papermaking process, combat papermakers are attempting to progress from creating works specific to their military experiences to expressing a broader vision on militarism and society. The work reflects both the anger of the past and hope for the future. Through this collaboration between civilians and veterans, a much-needed conversation is generated regarding our responsibilities to the returned veteran and an understanding of the dehumanizing effects of warfare.

Watch a film about Combat Paper Project and meet Drew Cameron, one of the CPP founders, here:

 

Resources on Military, Combat Stress, and PTSD

Healing Combat Trauma. Resources for and about healing combat trauma. The focus is on effective therapeutic care — medical, psychological and legal — plus analysis and context — and the slant is apolitical.

Resources on Veterans and Art

They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II. During World War II more than 100 U.S. servicemen and civilians served as 'combat artists'. They depicted the war as they experienced it with their paintbrushes and pens. Their stories have never been told, and for fifty years their artwork, consisting of more than 12,000 pieces has been largely forgotten -- until now.

National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum.The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.

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