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I. Creative Arts Therapies PTSD & TBI Research

Section 1 of Advances in Creative Forces® Clinical Research and Applications of the Creative Arts Therapies for Treating PTSD and TBI in Military-Connected Populations by Donna Betts

Image: Framework of representations of self as seen in mask imagery courtesy of Walker, Kaimal, et.al. 2017.

Art Therapy
Dance/Movement Therapy
Expressive Arts Therapy
Music Therapy

Creative Arts Therapies PTSD and TBI Research

The value of the creative arts therapies in clinical care, assessment, and evaluation with a range of patient populations has been described in the broader literature; these disciplines provide treatment efficiency and may shorten the length of treatment, advance treatment progress, or accelerate readiness for treatment (Decker, Deaver, Abbey, Campbell, & Turpin, 2019; DeLoach Walworth, 2005; Karkou, Aithal, Zubala, & Meekums, 2019; Romo & Gifford, 2007; Standley, 2012; Uttley et al., 2015). The creative arts therapies research on military-connected populations and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) is subsequently described.

Art Therapy

In a randomized, controlled trial (N = 38) that compared art therapy in conjunction with cognitive processing therapy (CPT) to CPT alone for veterans with combat-related PTSD, the art therapy and CPT group yielded significantly greater reduction in depression and PTSD symptoms (Decker et al., 2019). Furthermore, the perceived benefit of treatment was greater for art therapy than for CPT. An earlier study found that art therapy with CPT improved trauma processing and that veterans considered it to be important to their treatment in providing healthy distancing, enhanced trauma recall, and increased access to emotions (Campbell, Decker, Kruk, & Deaver, 2016). Among its benefits, art therapy helps to identify patterns of resilience and indicators of psychological risk embedded in artwork and offers valuable clinical information (Kaimal, Walker, Herres, French, & DeGraba, 2018). It serves as an effective behavioral health assessment tool (Kaimal, Walker, Berberian, Herres, & DeGraba, 2020), it aids in recovery from traumatic experiences, and it reduces flashbacks and nightmares (Jones, Walker, Drass, & Kaimal, 2018).

Music Therapy

A scoping review that included 14 publications on clinical applications of music therapy with military populations showed positive outcomes related to emotional expression and/or emotion regulation, socialization/cohesion and/or decreasing loneliness/isolation, and social objectives (Gooding & Langston, 2019). Additional outcomes included: improvements in speech, motor, and cognitive functioning, and greater compliance with treatments (Vaudreuil, Avila, Bradt, & Pasquina, 2019; Vaudreuil, Bronson, & Bradt, 2019); improving symptoms associated with PTSD and military sexual trauma (Story & Beck, 2017); and reducing anxiety and depression (Wellman & Pinkerton, 2015). The most common music-based intervention reported was group drumming (Scheffel & Matney, 2014), which was highly rated by service members engaged in group music therapy (Vaudreuil, Biondo, & Bradt, 2020). This finding is consistent with the growing body of research supporting the use of percussion (rhythm-based interventions) in music therapy and the therapeutic effects of active music-making (Collins & Fleming, 2017; Raglio et al., 2016).

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT)

DMT programming was a recent addition to the Network; accordingly, Creative Forces DMT-specific research is forthcoming. The broader DMT literature points to multiple benefits in treating psychological health conditions and TBI in military-connected populations. A meta-synthesis of qualitative findings about DMT for individuals with trauma suggested that the treatment length can be reduced by addressing neurobiological and somatic goals, i.e., by promoting connections between body and mind, increasing mobility and range of movement, developing a healthy physical relationship with self and others, and creating new relationships with movement (Levine & Land, 2016). A pilot case study presented an analysis of an existing DMT-based mind-body wellness program that is part of a larger integrative program for military service members with TBI and psychological health conditions (Winters Fisher, 2019). Results showed potential increase in mind-body awareness for patients as well as a possible shift in movement flow. In a case study described by Lee (Spooner et al., 2019), telehealth delivery of DMT helped a veteran improve his quality of life and coping strategy for chronic health conditions. The patient achieved an expanded repertoire for movement and range of motion and met certain socialization goals.

Continue reading "Advances in Creative Forces Clinical Research": Full PDF ArticleI.Creative Arts Therapies PTSD and TBI ResearchII. Clinical Research, III. Arts Therapy ResearchIV. Music Therapy ResearchV. Telehealth ProgramVI. Conclusion

For more information on Creative Forces clinical research visit the Clinical Research Findings page and the National Resource Center Creative Forces Clinical Research Resources Collection.

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