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III. Creative Forces Art Therapy Research

Section 3 of Advances in Creative Forces® Clinical Research and Applications of the Creative Arts Therapies for Treating PTSD and TBI in Military-Connected Populations by Dr. Donna Betts. Image courtesy of National Endowment for the Arts.

Art Therapy
Visual Arts

Art Therapy Research

Art therapy research publications from the Creative Forces Network total 11 to date and include case reports, correlational analyses of secondary data, and program evaluation studies, one of which examines the use of therapeutic writing (Landless, Walker, & Kaimal, 2018).

(1) Psychological/behavioral: Creative Forces research reveals that the recollection of a traumatic memory in art therapy leads to construction of an alternative narrative for trauma processing and recovery (Berberian, Walker, & Kaimal, 2018). Art therapy helps service members to open up, express, and confront aspects of their struggles too hard to articulate in words (Kaimal et al., 2018); it provides patients with the opportunity to freely express trauma symptoms and engages them in the treatment process (Walker, Stamper, Nathan, & Riedy, 2018). As found in a study by Berberian, Walker, and Kaimal (2018), art therapy fosters the ability to experience positive feelings like hopefulness and gratification and, according to Kaimal, Jones, Dieterich-Hartwell, Acharya, and Wang (2019), verbal processing is enhanced through artmaking. Furthermore, therapeutic writing used in conjunction with art therapy promotes expression of positive emotions (Landless, Walker, & Kaimal, 2018).

Artworks created in art therapy supported through Creative Forces can act as agents for change to improve frustration tolerance and stabilize emotions (Jones, Drass, & Kaimal, 2019; Walker et al., 2016). As several studies demonstrate, art therapy provides a means to channel aggressive behaviors and address emotions like anger and anxiety and helps in coping with difficult experiences and feelings such as grief, loss, avoidance, survivor’s guilt, and shame related to wartime actions (Jones et al., 2018; Kaimal et al., 2019; Walker et al., 2017).

(2) Neurological/cognitive: Art therapy improves concentration and memory (Kaimal et al., 2018; Walker et al., 2017); it may foster connectivity in the brain to help support healthier brain function (Walker et al., 2018); and it can enhance enjoyment and promote relaxation (Kaimal et al., 2018).

(3) Rehabilitative: According to the Creative Forces research, art therapy can increase the ability to cope with pain and stress (Jones, Drass, & Kaimal, 2019; Maltz, Hoyt, Uomoto, & Herodes, 2020). In one case series report by Walker et al. (2018), art therapy was shown to help service members experiencing physical or psychological injury and/or struggling with rumination and stress to shift from the survival brain, which is focused on self-preservation, to the learning brain, which is receptive to new information.

(4) Social/relational: Art therapy enhances learning about the self, supports identity integration, self-awareness, and improved self-concept (Jones, Drass, & Kaimal, 2019; Jones et al., 2018; Kaimal et al., 2019). It also addresses a divided sense of self by promoting development of a coherent self through mask-making (Walker et al., 2017). According to the Creative Forces literature, art therapy reduces isolation, fosters the ability to relate to others (Berberian, Walker, & Kaimal, 2018), and helps in overcoming resistance to treatment due to societal stigma of pursuing treatment for PTSD (Walker et al., 2016). Mask-making in art therapy supports expression of internal struggles and offers an alternative mode of communication with caregivers, family, and fellow service members. The activity also promotes expressions of patriotism and belongingness among service members and can address feelings of disconnect with the society and nation after they return home from deployment (Walker et al., 2017).

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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