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Painting Therapy

There’s definitely something soothing about creating something bright, vibrant, and full of color with Painting Therapyyour own hands. For Tampa veterans and active-duty service members, art is becoming the next trend in mental health rehabilitation at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. For some, like Penny Cheagle, painting a small statuette of a bear is more therapeutic than any psychiatric trick or medication on the market.

“I have a lot of pain that goes on. Physical pain, some mental pain. [This bear] takes me to a place that makes me happy. It can let my body heal and let my mind heal. It lets me go to a place that’s safe for me.”

For many veterans, as well as servicemen and servicewomen on active duty around the country, nontraditional therapies help them make enormous strides in their physical and psychological conditions. Some illnesses, such as PTSD, do not always respond well to psychotherapy sessions that rely mainly on talking things out. Something else, something external, is often needed to make the needed breakthrough. This is why painting therapy is a great idea.

Painting therapy is art but doesn’t even have to mean painting, though for some it does. Sculpture, dance, theater, poetry, and other art forms have all been proven to help veterans and active members of the military to heal from wounds of the mind or body, or both.

Tampa is a leader in the world of art-therapy. One of the leading organizations in Tampa, Creative Forces, hosts many of the sessions at the Haley Veterans Hospital multiple times each week. One of Creative Forces’ art therapists, Merrilee K Jorn, speaks to the individuality the embodies every art therapy session.

“Someone may not know what’s going to work. Talk may work for somebody… music, maybe the arts. You don’t know what it’s going to be. It just happens.”

Art therapy has been used to help children cope with traumas for years. For some, the leap from something that is intended for children who have experienced horrible things, to using art to help adults who have experienced horrible things, somehow seems to be too large a gap to span. For others, it makes sense.

Art Is An Outlet For ExpressionPainting Therapy

Art in any form provides an outlet for expression. It is sometimes the inability to express what one may be feeling that causes such strain, and prevents healing. For members of the military, who have witnessed or even committed things that are too difficult, even impossible, to speak about aloud, art can provide an outlet that otherwise would be lacking.

Or, if not a mode of direct expression, art at least can certainly calm one’s mind, and bring into focus more of the good things in life. For Penny Cheagle, her “happy place” leads her to think of her husband. The bear she was working on?

“This is a gift for my husband because he reminds me of a teddy bear.”

For more on the work Creative Forces is striving towards, visit their website. And perhaps this holiday season, consider volunteering in some way at a local Veterans’ Hospital or other charitable organization for the military and their families. They do so much for us, and we often never see the cost in person.

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