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Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
Finding Meaning Through the Many Windows of Wellness

Creative Arts Therapy Can Help Veterans

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 3rd 2013

Through one of the coolest partnerships in the history of military services, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will provide art therapy to military patients at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.

female in wheelchair painting a pictureThe partnership began at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. At Walter Reed's National Intrepid Center of Excellence - a state-of-the-art research and treatment center for veterans with psychological issues and traumatic brain injury - the two entities created a creative arts program that included visual arts therapy, music therapy, and therapeutic writing activities for wounded servicemen and women.

Within this treatment model, creative arts therapists work alongside neurologists, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to make sure veterans' treatment plans incorporate multidimensional forms of care. The great thing about this kind of treatment being delivered through a research center is that the interventions can be studied for their effectiveness. This is the heart of evidence-based practice, an increasingly important aspect of care.

At Fort Belvoir, the NEA and DoD will offer a three-month pilot program called "Intrepid Spirit One." The program will focus on offering visual arts and writing therapies to wounded warriors with mild traumatic brain injury and/or a mental health condition.

The pilot program began in November 2013 and will run through January 2014. During that time, a creative arts therapist will work with veterans to use visual arts such as mask-making as well as therapeutic writing to help them regulate their emotions, process traumatic events, and enhance cognitive and physical functioning. If the pilot program shows promise, it will be evaluated for long-term implementation, both at Fort Belvoir and other locations.

I applaud the NEA and DoD for joining together to provide such a valuable and innovative service to our brave and well-deserving servicemen and women. While it might seem like an unlikely "marriage," the linkage of the arts and the military is on the upswing. The National Initiative on Arts and the Military - a consortium of nonprofit, military, government and private sector agencies dedicated to advancing evidence-based creative therapies for the military - was founded in 2012 and seems to be on track for accomplishing some substantial and meaningful goals for those who have courageously served our country. I look forward to hearing more about the consortium's successes in the years to come.


National Endowment for the Arts (November 7, 2013). The National Endowment for the Arts Announces Expansion of Creative Arts Therapy Program.


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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