Art has the power to heal. 

Creative Forces programs offer ways for military-connected people to access healing through the arts. 

The need is clear: hundreds of thousands of service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, which can impact speech, memory, and bodily functions like vision and balance. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in any given year, and the families and caregivers of service members and veterans may also experience unique health and psychological effects.

How we measure impact

The impact of Creative Forces is measured through rigorous qualitative and quantitative research and evaluation. It is brought to life through the stories of people who have been able to access the healing power of the arts.

The Clinical Program reaches thousands of new patients every year. Creative Forces invests in research on the impacts and benefits – physical, social, and emotional – of creative arts therapies as innovative treatment methods.

The Community Engagement Program expands the reach of Creative Forces by supporting community-based arts programming. Through monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), we evaluate the impact on participants, community partners, and the broader fields of military arts and health.

Clinical Program impact

Since 2012, Creative Forces has placed creative arts therapists (CATs) at military hospitals and veterans facilities, where they have provided creative arts therapies to military-connected people and their families.

Clinical Program reach

21,998 patients

Have received care at Creative Forces Clinical Program sites since 2017.

122,500+ therapy encounters

Led by Creative Forces creative arts therapists.

34 creative arts therapists

Work with patients and families at twelve Creative Forces clinical sites.

Clinical research

Creative Forces has published 26 peer-reviewed research studies on the impact of creative arts therapies for patients with traumatic brain injuries and associated psychological health issues.

Clinical research findings indicate that creative arts therapies can:

  • Enable recovery from traumatic experiences
  • Reduce symptoms associated with PTSD
  • Foster the ability to experience hope and gratification
  • Reduce isolation and stigma associated with traumatic brain injuries and associated psychological health issues
An Indian man with short black and grey hair and a black and grey beard wearing glasses while standing behind a podium. There is a screen behind him with images of decorated, colorful masks.
Anjan Chatterjee, MD, FAAN, presents research findings at the Creative Forces State-of-the-Science Summit, November 2023. Dr. Chatterjee is a Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture and the founding Director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. Photo by Santina Protopapa

Music and art is that main output for me to control the seizures on my right brain.

One session with my music therapist, I went the next day almost seizure free. And it was an aha moment for me almost immediately of like, well, the only thing that changed was I went and she made me sing. That moment I knew the art was going to help me immensely.

Michael Schneider, MSGT, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

Watch a video about how creative arts therapy has affected the lives of military service members and veterans, which was developed as part of our “Healing the Invisible Wounds of War” online exhibition.

Community Engagement Program impact

Learning and evaluation are core components of the Community Engagement Program. We use qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the effectiveness of community arts programs in promoting creative expression, social connectedness, resilience, independence, and a successful transition to civilian life.

In 2020, Creative Forces completed the program evaluation of ten pilot Community Connections projects, which informed the development of the Community Engagement Program.

Evaluation of the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 grants made through the Community Engagement Program is ongoing, as many of the grants support two years of programming.

Community Engagement Program reach

200+ arts experiences for 1,055 participants

Between 2018 and 2020 at 10 Community Connections projects.

$2.2M+ in funding to 101 projects

Awarded through the Community Engagement grant program since 2022.

I think the biggest thing is recognizing how valuable the community arts organizations are to service members, their families, and the civilian community.

They are bridging the gap and creating a way of giving our service members and their families a way of telling their story and making their experiences as military service members more relatable to the civilian side. The arts are an incredible way of doing that. I think this is important to everybody.

Director, Community Connections partner
Seated man looking down at clay on a round surface of a potter's wheel.
Participants at a Pop-Up Creative Arts Cafe hosted by VETART work clay on wheels in May 2019. Photo courtesy of Resounding Joy

Benefits of community arts engagement

A study of the pilot Community Connections projects found benefits to participants, organizations, and communities.

Military-connected people experienced a range of benefits, including:

  • Improved mental health and/or quality of life
  • Increased sense of community 
  • Improved artistic skills
  • Increased empowerment

Organizations that implemented the Community Connections projects experienced:

  • Increased capacity and commitment to serve military-connected communities
  • Improved communication with clinical providers
  • Improved collaboration among arts organizations
  • Increased community awareness of the benefits of the arts

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