A More Creative Way to Heal the Invisible Wounds of War

United States

More than 500,000 men and women of our armed services are living with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or associated psychological health issues. This figure includes as many as 20 percent of all service members who were deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. 

Creative Forces has focused on creative arts therapies as a highly effective way of improving the health, wellness, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. This joint federal agency collaboration is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs as well as state and local arts agencies. Administrative support for Creative Forces is provided by HJF and Americans for the Arts. 

Strategically embedding creative arts therapies at the core of patient care at clinical sites throughout the country is one of the primary goals of Creative Forces. (Its telehealth program has been especially essential during the pandemic.) The creative arts therapies supported by Creative Forces consist of dance/movement therapy, music therapy, and art therapy. No less important than the healing of individual patients is the research by Creative Forces on the impact and benefits—physical, emotional, social, and economic—of creative arts therapies.  

Two dozen creative arts therapists, including 18 funded by the National Endowment for the Arts through HJF and six others funded by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, currently work as part of the Creative Forces network. They can be found in a dozen locations across the nation—from the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, to the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida—and including the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. 

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