Military Veteran Use of Visual Journaling during Recovery
Large numbers of military veterans are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries and mental health issues. In response to this the Department of Veterans Affairs offers many evidenced based treatments, however, these treatments mostly rely on verbal processing and are not able to help those who have difficulty talking about their experience. Art therapy, and specifically, visual journaling, offers a potential to fill this void and help those who would benefit from a nonverbal treatment. The following study provides a literature review relevant to the use of visual journaling with military veterans. Current treatments that are offered to patients are reviewed. The benefits of art making are discussed and studies on the benefits of art and writing and detailed. Lastly, visual journaling and art therapy are discussed with an emphasis on studies demonstrating art therapy's usefulness with military veterans. The study utilized a 6-week visual journaling curriculum developed by the author. The journaling curriculum was focused on providing education and decreasing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and trauma. The journaling curriculum was used to provide group art therapy at a therapeutic housing community for homeless veterans. Completion of the journaling group, pre and posttest Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation - Outcome Measure (CORE-OM), and an individual interview were required in order to be included in the study; two participants completed the study. The data from the CORE-OM was analyzed to determine change in overall score as well as the domains of life functioning, risk/harm, problems/symptoms, and subjective well-being. The individual interviews were analyzed to determine themes. The following themes were identified: self-knowledge gained via the journaling process, therapist qualities, individual versus group therapy, art making benefits, and art communicates the "real" me. Although the CORE-OM did not show clinically significant change, the interviews revealed that the participants did benefit from their participation in the journaling group. Several confounding variables affected this study including the common time-line with another study that was being conducted in the area, the conclusion of the group coinciding with the conclusion of the academic semester and the participants placing the study at a lower priority than their other appointments. Due to the small sample size and the fact that both participants were receiving other mental health treatment at the time of the study, the results cannot be generalized. The finding of results that are consistent with some results of other studies, and the benefit received from the participants indicates that the use of visual journaling can be beneficial to military veterans in recovery and further study is warranted. Suggestions for future study include utilizing the visual journaling curriculum with a larger group of military veterans and utilizing the curriculum with individuals. Additionally, suggestions for art therapists that wish to use visual journaling with their clients are included.
Art Therapy, Journaling, Military, Veterans, Visual Journaling
June 17, 2014.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Dave Gussak, Professor Directing Thesis; Marcia Rosal, Committee Member; Jeff Broome, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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