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 and the state and local arts agencies that seeks to improve the health, wellness, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. The initiative was established in 2012 through a partnership with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and has grown to include multiple clinical sites at the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs treatment facilities across the nation.
As part of Creative Forces, 29 creative arts therapists work in 13 clinical settings across the country in addition to providing services through telehealth programs for rural and remote areas.
As part of Creative Forces, creative arts therapists, known as CATs, provide creative arts therapies—art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy, as well as creative writing instruction—for military patients and veterans at military medical facilities, including telehealth delivery of care for patients in rural and remote areas.
Creative arts therapies are part of intensive outpatient programs and longitudinal outpatient programs. CATs use specific directives and interventions to address behavioral health issues such as difficulty verbalizing emotions and processing traumatic experiences. They help patients increase self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.
Art therapy is defined by the American Art Therapy Association as a mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, and applied psychological theory and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.
Dance/movement therapy is described by the American Dance Therapy Association as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual for the purpose of improving health and well-being. Their focus is on working with the natural intelligence of the mind-body connection throughout treatment.
Music therapy is characterized by The American Music Therapy Association as the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program, clinical internship, and earned board-certification as a music therapist.
Creative Forces invests in research on the impacts and benefits – physical, emotional, and social – of creative arts therapies as innovative treatment methods.
Creative Forces is committed to the pursuit and promotion of clinically relevant biomedical and behavioral research on the effectiveness of creative arts therapies for service members, veterans, family members, and caregivers. Several strategies are critical to the success of our research program. They include: informed selection of rigorous research designs; support for multisite studies; funding of research opportunities at Creative Forces sites, and collaboration with other health/rehabilitation disciplines and partners.