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.
Creative Arts Therapies
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.
Moreover, creative arts therapies help patients reduce hyperarousal, avoidance, and depression, and decrease social isolation. In the rehabilitative realm, creative arts therapies address cognition, motor, and speech/language functioning. Lead CATs from among the disciplines of art, dance/movement, and music therapies serve as resources for the Creative Forces network to provide training, mentorship, and support across our operation.
Creative Forces creative arts therapists are employees of the DoD, VA, or supported through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, who manages the clinical component of Creative Forces in partnership with the Arts Endowment.
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.
Clinical Activities by the Numbers
As part of Creative Forces, 28 creative arts therapists work in 12 clinical settings across the country in addition to providing services through telehealth programs for rural and remote areas and in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
History, Impact, and Future of Clinical Activities
Watch an interview with Dr. Sara Kass, military medical advisor with Henry M. Jackson for the Advancement of Military Medicine on the history, impact and future of clinical activities.
Creative Forces Clinical Sites
The Creative Forces Network supports creative arts therapists in collaboration with military locations at Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs sites.
Telehealth and Virtual Arts Engagement
During COVID-19, Creative Forces’ creative arts therapists quickly pivoted from face to face clinical encounters to those conducted via telehealth, ensuring limited disruptions in patient care. Their adept ability to change delivery was due in large part to experiences gained through Creative Forces’ partnership with the VA’s Rural Veterans TeleRehabilitation Initiative (RVTRI) in which creative arts therapists deliver services to patients in rural and remote areas using secure internet video.
Research and Impact
Creative Forces invests in research on the impacts and benefits – physical, social, and emotional – of creative arts therapies as innovative treatment methods. Bio medical and behavioral research in clinical settings is conducted around five priority areas:
1.Targeted deployment of creative arts therapies interventions
2.Creative arts therapies in integrated care
3. Co-treatment and telehealth
4. Population characteristics and relationships to creative arts therapies implementation and outcomes
5. Neuroimaging and creative arts therapies
In partnership with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Creative Forces aims to advance knowledge, leverage subject-matter expertise, and promote use of best practices to benefit targeted military patient populations. Creative Forces clinical research findings have resulted in 19 peer-reviewed articles published since 2016.