Art Therapy is a powerful method of expression. It is one way that many veterans and families are finding that may offer great benefit in dealing with challenges and many times, has the possibility of inspiring joy.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has provided free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound veterans for generations. The creative arts program help injured, and recuperating veterans improve fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, manage stress and substance abuse, cope with symptoms of PTSD and TBI, while also improving their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health. Creative arts therapies are part of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Recreation Therapy Service and are direct-care programs that include the following disciplines: Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Music Therapy. Creative arts therapists like Gina Trezza are highly skilled, credentialed professionals having completed extensive coursework and clinical training. Art therapy is a counseling profession that uses the process of art making to help patients enhance their well-being physically, spiritually, and emotionally. “Studies have shown the process of creating art has therapeutic benefits and discussing art can facilitate self-expression and lead to greater insight about oneself,” said Gina Trezza, Creative Arts Therapist who runs the Art therapy Program at Northport VA Medical Center. I work with the patient and we work together to identify therapeutic goals and the best ways to achieve them.” “Since art therapy does not rely on verbal communication alone, it enables a therapeutic rapport to develop with people who are unable or choose not to express their feelings in words, but who would benefit from having someone "bear witness" to their experience,” added Trezza. “I am so honored by the patients who share their stories and experiences with me, not to mention their meaningful art.” U.S. Navy Veteran Rosemary Lamb-Mourey has been practicing her art at the Northport VA for the past 4 years. “I have not painted in over 25 years.” said Lamb-Mourey. “
“Gina is a phenomenal therapist and she is supportive and creates such a warm and welcoming space where you can tap into creativity while dealing with the emotions that this journey brings to the surface,” said Lamb-Mourey. “I have learned that the process of making something, even if it doesn't turn out the way I would have liked or takes longer than I expected, is just as important as finishing a project that I love. I've learned to be gentler with myself and that it's good to make space to experiment and see what happens.” Lamb-Mourey’s has had Her works have also been displayed at the VA Center for Women's Veterans Art Exhibit in collaboration with Veterans Art Venue at Columbia University.
Research supports the effectiveness of creative arts therapies interventions in many areas, including overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement. Creative arts therapies further help patients to increase motivation to become engaged in treatment, provide emotional support for Veterans and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the positive outcomes that can result from creative arts therapies, and especially for those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Creative arts therapies are listed in Joint Commission standards, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the National Institutes of Health National Center on complementary and Alternative Medicine.
These therapies are recognized as viable treatment options. Creative arts therapists create non-threatening group and individualized artistic experiences for individuals of all ages who confront life challenges related to physical and mental health conditions, on a daily basis. Creative arts therapists provide and promote creative self-expression that is personally driven and individually focused. Each year, VA sponsors the National Creative Arts Festival for U.S. military Veterans who are served at VA medical centers nationwide. This program enhances the physical, social, and emotional well-being of veterans who participate. The event is co-sponsored by VA, Veteran Service Organizations, and civic groups.