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Joceline Munoz
Ms. DAlessio
UWRT 1102-008
3/20/16
Final Essay: Art Therapy Options for Veteran PTSD Victims
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans is sporadically noticed. I personally
lacked any knowledge on the illness until I came across this group project. From a definitive
point, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or series
of events, such as combat, in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened, causing
feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror (Collie, Backos, Malchiodi, and Spiegel 157).
My first speculation of this dreadful disorder was how terrifying it must be to be so caught up in
your emotions that you feel trapped. It sounded like an endless nightmare! However, all of my
research led me to decide to look further into methods used to treat this illness. While
researching, I came across different types of therapies that are commonly used, art being the
most effective. 79.0% of military personnel had a sustained reduction of PTSD symptoms and it
showed on the baseline assessment of PTSD symptoms (Kip, Rosenzweig, Hernandez, et.al.).
Many people are unfamiliar with what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder really is. A basic
working definition is, PTSD is a common psychological disorder that can affect any person who
has been exposed to a traumatic event (Issitt). The disorder is very common among veterans but
could affect any individual that has an agonizing experience. Not everyone suffers from all of the
symptoms but, emotional numbness, sleep disturbances, outbursts of anger, and life problems
(Collie, Backos, Malchiodi, and Spiegel 157) are some of the most frequently experienced by

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veterans. This interferes with their post-service, returned to civilian life, and it can be difficult to
perform day to day activities as they are triggered by general aspects of daily life that cannot
always be avoided. The military does screenings to prevent PTSD from going unnoticed and to
encourage further treatment such as art therapy.
The two main types of art therapy that I decided to focus on were poetry and music.
These two forms of therapy dig deeper than the surface by affecting both emotions and
physiology in anyone with a mental health illness, especially PTSD veterans. It does this by
having professionals who, have had additional training in these areas have an advantage in
applying art therapy approaches in clinical practice because they have contemporary knowledge
of current treatment methodology, symptom expression, and developments in neuroscience
(Collie, Backos, Malchiodi, and Spiegel 161). What is so unique about art therapies is the
concept of being able to choose the style that fits each individuals needs and I feel like that is
what makes art therapies so successful since it is based around their preferences.
Music is perceived differently by everyone. In music therapy sessions, an instrument is
played to soothe and relax followed by conversations among the veterans on any improvement
with their disorder. The therapy session can be effective by a therapist playing an instrument or
by the veteran personally playing the music. Music itself has been scientifically proven to help
PTSD veteran victims by distracting their bodies from pain by causing their brain to release just
the right chemicals (Swanson). Think of all those times you have been sad and listened to music
with a soft rhythm to soothe your heartache. You did not just choose any song, the instruments
used mattered in your decision making of what song would match your current emotions. The
only factor that differentiates the two scenarios is that veterans with PTSD are more sensitive to

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what type of instrument is in the music that they are listening to, which is why the type of
instrument used is also substantially important.
In Watermelon Man by Ferguson, the trumpet is played at a high pitch. Anyone
without PTSD would find the song appealing but those with such disorder could have the wrong
emotions triggered. They would not find the music soothing and instead even have an outburst
due to negative recollections. Luckily, art therapists are educated enough to know what type of
music to avoid playing during sessions. High pitched music with a fast rhythm is unacceptable
because you never know whose emotions will be shuffled due to it. How the veterans with PTSD
perceive the music is what the session focuses on. For example, given the choice between the
cello and the viola, if the therapist had chosen to play the cello instead of the viola, some PTSD
veterans could have perceived the music as dark due to the pitch being low and bad recollections
could have been triggered instead of the goal, to soothe and relax. As Swanson stated before
playing her viola, The viola is deeper in tone than the violin but higher in pitch than the cello,
which demonstrates the control veterans have over their therapy session and how their needs are
met (Swanson).
Poetry is another popular method of art therapy. The significance behind this form of
therapy is to allow veterans to express themselves freely, wording their emotions as they please.
Poems have the tendency of saying one thing but truly meaning another. The whole underlying
message is what permits veterans with PTSD to express themselves without explicitly sharing
their thoughts or memories to whomever reads the poem, which can only occur upon the
veterans choice of disclosure. On an anonymous veteran bloggers poem, one line reads, A
month passes for me like someone elses day (Universal), showing that PTSD is a hard disorder
to cope with. Everything for an ordinary person is lengthened for someone who is suffering with

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PTSD. Furthermore, Today I panic in a store,/ Where danger doesnt lurk (Universal), I
interpret that it is referring to a veterans fight or flight mode always being turned on even in safe
situations. Instead of jumping at a few things that catch anyone off guard, a veteran who suffers
from PTSD becomes jittery far too easily.
Every situation has two sides to it. A question I found myself wondering was how many
veterans with PTSD do not seek help? What about those veterans who nobody seeks out to help
and deteriorate? Screening through the military has been validated against diagnostic criteria and
interview-derived diagnoses over the course of 10 years and more than 3,000 administrations
(Kip, Rosenzweig, Hernandez, et.al.) and this attempts to help prevent any military personnel
with PTSD from going unnoticed. These screenings are erratic and select a random set of people
to diagnose. This makes it easier to discover if any military personnel have the disorder without
any requests having to be made. However, I found it heartbreaking that some people, no matter
their age, still struggle with asking for a hand when they need it.
My sympathy for these veterans suffering with this disorder became greater through this
research. How they must feel when their own actions startle them! I have had moments when I
question why I did something but it does not happen often. If it did, I would begin to fear myself.
Such emotion would only cause me to feel as if nobody was going to believe me and how I felt
and assume I was going crazy. Many families lack in supporting their kin and providing the love
and affection their mind, body, and emotions need in that instance. How would you react if you
felt a certain way and everyone ignored your feelings? I know I would be either infuriated or
down in the dumps, crying about every little thing that is wrong with my life. However, what
about those people that struggle expressing themselves and their emotions? That would cause a
lot of anger to build up and an unexpected outburst further down the road. Some veterans with

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PTSD are still processing the tragic event they witnessed or could simply be too prideful and fear
appearing weak when asking for help. There is a huge stigma on therapy being a necessity for the
crazy and a lot of people avoid it for that reason. The point of therapy is to help you get past an
obstacle and by doing so learning some strategies to help you.
While there is a variety of therapies out there for veterans with PTSD, I believe that art
therapies provide more complex benefits and opportunities to meet the needs of those seeking
help. This can lead to progress in their treatments because theyre actively seeking out help and
then provided with the support necessary, which is the first step in the recovery of PTSD.
Through art therapies, theyre learning how to deal with and put their thoughts, emotions, and
memories into perspective through the application of art, whether thats into the music they
choose to listen to or the literal release of words into their poems. Theyre allowing their bodies
to become distracted through other forms, which causes both a mental and physical change to
their system. Moreover, one of the benefits of art therapy is that anyone is permitted to attend
these sessions, including the veterans family for additional moral support. The flexibility of art
therapy has proven to be beneficial for those who have used it and argues for itself when being
considered as a treatment option.
These veterans dealing with their mental health illness are used to not being transparent
because they have experienced a great deal of pain on the battlefield and see the first signs of
PTSD as miniscule issues. Their emotions are shrugged off until it is far too late and someone
else has to take drastic measures to prevent the veteran from harming others due to their mind
being uneasy. Statistics from the DVA in 2012 indicate that at least twenty-two veterans commit
suicide each day, which is more than twice the rate of suicide among nonveterans (Issitt).
Twenty two is such a high number considering these are the people who fought for our country.

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This topic not only taught me to be more aware of the people that surround me every day, friends
or not, but to also be conscious that you never really know what someone is dealing with at
home. Addressing the PTSD issue may require increased awareness within the public to
encourage people to reach out to others in need (Issitt). Being an open-minded person could
really change someones life.
While there is no cure to PTSD among veterans, there are a variety of treatments like art
therapy which enables veterans to deal with PTSD symptoms in a healthy manner. I believe art
therapy will play a bigger role in PTSD treatment because physically having to take medication
is perceived as a defeat among veterans due to their group mentality and wanting to avoid being
the weakest link to their team. Because of this, it seems that art therapies work so well because
they feel as if they are taken out of the equation and not falling under the stigma of treatment for
a mental illness. This made me think of how my father refused to receive medical treatment for
his cancer because he was prideful but now I see that he was simply fighting being categorized
as ill and defeated. Having seen it from a different illness puts it better in perspective to
empathize with veterans suffering from PTSD and how we can encourage alternative treatments
for different, but not necessarily wrong, mindsets. I wonder if there is going to be a backlash
from people stearin away from medical treatments and if funding these programs will be
criticized. Because I feel like some people arent as accepting to new ideas or in this case
treatments like art therapy, it could be a long and arduous process to get approved both by
treatment providers and those who participate in it. I know I had to experience a personal
connection before fully understanding controversy of alternative treatments and how the patient
perceives them. I hope to see more people utilize art therapies and methods that allow people to
express themselves in order to heal mentally.

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Works Cited
BrassMusician.com. Maynard Ferguson Trumpet high notes legend. Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 2 February 2011. Web. 22 March 2016.
Collie, Kate, Amy Backos, Cathy Malchiodi, and David Spiegel. "Art Therapy for CombatRelated PTSD: Recommendations for Research and Practice." Art rapy: Journal of the
American Art rapy Association 2006: 157-64. Print.
Issitt, Micah. "Point: Medical Agencies Need To Develop Improved Therapeutic Intervention
Programs For The Treatment And Prevention Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD)." Points Of View: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (2016): 2.Points of
View Reference Center. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Kip, Kevin E., Laney Rosenzweig, Diego F. Hernandez, Amy Shuman, Kelly L. Sullivan,
Christopher J. Long, James Taylor, Stephen McGhee, Sue Ann Girling, Trudy Wittenberg,
Frances M. Sahebzamani, Cecile A. Lengacher, Rajendra Kadel, and David M. Diamond.
Military Medicine. 12th ed. Vol. 178. Bethesda: AMSUS - The Society of the Federal
Health Professionals, 2013. Print.
Swanson, Abbie Fentress. "Music Helps Vets Control Symptoms of PTSD." WQXR. Ed. Richard
Yeh. New York Public Radio, 8 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
Universal. "Poem: PTSD -- 1st Person." Ilona Meagher, 21 Nov. 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.