Juliet King has never spent a day in military service during war or peace times.
But the Herron School of Art and Design assistant professor and licensed art therapist has taken up the fight to improve the lives of veterans facing emotional adjustments after their time on the battlefield.
Most recently, King, director of Herron’s art therapy program, signed on as the point person for the “Veterans Coming Home” campaign at the art school on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus. The school has joined forces with WFYI Public Media and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library for the yearlong multimedia, arts-focused awareness campaign to support Indiana’s veterans and their families.
“Veterans Coming Home,” was funded with a $25,000 Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant and includes WFYI broadcasts of the stories of veterans such as Andrew Schneiders, Kris Bertrand and others.
In a Richard L. Roudebush Indianapolis VA Medical Center pilot group art therapy project spearheaded by King and Dr. Brandi Luedtke of the Veterans Affairs, Schneiders has found healing power in “illustrating his troubled Iraq experiences with art” and then talking with fellow vets, according to a WFYI report.
And as part of an arts intervention program, Bertrand, who was sexually assaulted while serving in the Navy 25 years ago, found an emotional salve in throwing clay on a potter’s wheel.
“That’s because art is inherently therapeutic,” King said in a “Veterans Coming Home” broadcast, now available online.
“Engaging in the creative process is something that typically is going to be a life-enhancing experience for you,” King said. “It gets your blood moving; it gets your brain working in different ways. It helps you relax, it helps you get distance from what it is that you might be living with in your life at the time.”
King’s hope is that the success stories of Schneiders, Bertrand and others will raise the awareness of the value of art therapy in helping soldiers and others deal with trauma.
The ultimate goal is to draw the support of lawmakers and service providers who can both advance the licensing of art therapists across the state and promote the employment of such professionals as clinical counselors. Female veterans would in particular benefit from an expansion of art therapy services since they have traditionally voiced a reluctance to attend co-ed therapy groups and cited the lack of art therapy services for women.
Art therapists hold master’s degrees in art therapy and are eligible for licensure as clinical mental health counselors who are trained to use art to help clients find ways to express things they might not be able to say with words, King said. Art therapy is an effective treatment intervention for helping anyone facing issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which can affect not only war veterans but also victims of rape, torture, child abuse, car accidents and natural disasters, she said.
“We need more licensed art therapists,” King said. “(‘Veterans Coming Home’) is one way we are going about raising awareness. Hopefully people at the state level will pay attention and see the need.”
King is available for media interviews discussing her art therapy work with veterans. For interviews with King, contact Diane Brown 317-274-2195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.