About Creative Forces

Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers.

History of Creative Forces

Since 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts has partnered with the Department of Defense and subsequently Veterans Affairs to support creative arts therapies for service members and veterans in military medical facilities. In 2017, the network began supporting community arts programming, expanding the reach of Creative Forces to more military-connected people nationwide.

Operation Homecoming

The National Endowment for the Arts’ partnership with the Department of Defense dates back to 2004 when Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience was created by the Arts Endowment to help U.S. service members and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. From 2004 to 2006, Operation Homecoming provided more than 60 writing workshops to service members and their families at more than 30 military installations in the U.S. and overseas. A later phase brought writing workshops to veterans and active-duty service members at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, military hospitals, and affiliated centers in communities around the country. More than 6,000 people participated in Operation Homecoming workshops and related activities.

Clinical program pilot

In 2011, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Walter Reed Bethesda invited the Arts Endowment to help build out its creative arts therapy program. In 2012, the Operation Homecoming writing workshops became part of the clinical program at NICoE. After successfully piloting the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership there, the NICoE Intrepid Spirit-1 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia invited the National Endowment for the Arts to replicate the program in their new integrative care facility.

The NICoE’s groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approach to working with patients and their families—which ranges from physical and neurological exams, to family evaluation, nutrition, alternative medicine, and creative arts therapies—became the model for the Clinical Program. The partnership involved support for therapeutic writing as well as multiple creative arts therapies (art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy) at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir.

Expanding our reach

Congress has encouraged the National Endowment for the Arts’ continued efforts with the Military Healing Arts Network and funding increases have allowed the Arts Endowment to expand the reach and impact of this national initiative, under the title of Creative Forces, to include more than a dozen Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs clinical sites, telehealth services, research, program analytics, an online National Resource Center, and a community engagement grant program.

Three people seated at a table, each wearing protective eyewear, masks, and holding materials at a flame in a glass flameworking class.
Jason Hohenstreiter, Courtney Justice, and Ryan Kelly work on projects in a glass flameworking class at Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. Workhouse Arts Center was a Creative Forces Community Connections partner. Photo by Carol Sorber

Learn more about Creative Forces

Creative Forces brings together creative arts therapists (CATs), community arts providers, community artists, and researchers with local partners in communities nationwide to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers.


[MUSIC PLAYING] Creative Forces NEA military healing arts network supports the integration of creative arts therapies including art therapy, music therapy, and dance movement therapy in military clinics and VA hospitals across the country.

Creative Forces art therapists use standardized assessments like mask-making, the bridge with path drawing, and the wellness wheel to help determine the goals of the individual patient. Art therapy allows our patient population to visually express thoughts and feelings about their injuries and identities that they may not otherwise have been able to describe. They can then process these themes with the therapist.

Creative Forces dance movement therapists use interventions such as mirroring the journey dance method and mind body skills training to gain information from patients that shapes clinical decision making. These embodied in movement based interventions can increase self-efficacy and help patients reach their behavioral health and rehabilitative goals.

Music therapy interventions such as personal music inventory, lyric analysis, and song writing promote emotional associations, meaning-making, and processing of experiences. Instrument playing supports motor function, musical sequencing, and learning processes that promote cognition. Deep breathing and singing reinforce speech and language.

The Creative Forces team is constantly working on building resources for our creative arts therapists.

These include a series of clinical practice training videos that illustrate how to modify standard interventions for our patients in the military community. Other resources include intervention and evaluation tool kits, standardized note templates, referral documents, performance management tools, presentation and brochure templates, standardized assessments, and research protocols. Sharing our research with others in the creative arts therapy world is also a critical part of our mission.

Due to the collective efforts of the Creative Forces Network, we’ve published numerous articles based on best practices and clinically based research outcomes.

Our many articles are available open access and can be found cataloged on our National Resource Center.

Our network also gives us the tools to respond to pressing needs in changing times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly trained and mobilized our creative arts therapists to treat patients via telehealth.

Our network of creative arts therapists, peers, leadership, clinical, research, and administrative teams is what enables us to build strong programs and practices and to have the greatest possible impact on military service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers.

For more information, refer to the National Resource Center at creativeforcesnrc.arts.gov.


Accessibility Statement

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Our team

Creative Forces brings together creative arts therapists, community arts providers, community artists, and researchers with local partners in communities nationwide. Creative Forces is managed in partnership with Civic Arts, The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF), and Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA).

Creative Forces leadership

Bill O’Brien

Project Director, Creative Forces, National Endowment for the Arts

Clinical Program

Liz K. Freeman, MA, DMT-BC

Lead Dance/Movement Therapist, HJF

JD Hogue, MS & MM, MT-BC

Senior Informatics Specialist, HJF

Sara Kass, MD

Senior Military Medical Advisor, HJF

Lisa H. Raimondo, RN, BSN, MSN

Healthcare Operations Manager, HJF

Jay Uomoto, PhD

Clinical Research Director, HJF

Heather Spooner, MA, ATR-BC

Lead Telehealth Creative Arts Therapist, HJF

Rebecca Vaudreuil, MSW, EdM, MT-BC

Lead Music Therapist and Clinician Supervisor, HJF

Melissa Walker, MA, ATR

Lead Art Therapist, DoD

Kim Walter, PhD

Clinical Program Evaluator, HJF

Community Engagement Program

Matt Aelmore

Grant Coordinator, Community Engagement Grant Program, M-AAA

Christine Bial

Director of Arts & Humanities Grant Programs, M-AAA

Capacity support and communications

Beth Davenport

Communications Director, Flannel & Blade

Lynn Osgood, PhD

Executive Director, Civic Arts

Sarah Westlake

Creative Director, Flannel & Blade

Julia Zeltser

Partner and Accounts Director, Hyperakt

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