Providing Information That Promotes Overall Growth

The A.R.S Report
Special Edition April 2013

Life After Deployment
One soldier’s story of how he uses artistic expression to heal.
Ssgt Tarson Mack (ret.) exemplifies the spirit of resiliency from combat as he diligently works to utilize his gifts and talents to go through the healing process. He is a veteran who has served five combat tours ranging from Operation Desert Storm (ODS) to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). His military career provided him with an opportunity to see the world and support his family. His experiences during the multiple deployments caused him to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


who even in her 70’s she was “beating the fields” causing others to come to her for assistance. A threat to the physical integrity of oneself or another can be traumatic. or the diagnosis with a life-threatening illness. kidnapping. SSgt. Tarson learned the importance of being diligent from this experience. Art Ther apy Helps Treat PTSD in Combat Veterans Artistic expression in the treatment of trauma is found to be useful in assisting individuals to communicate despite their inability to express their experiences with words. He felt disillusioned by his experience.) learned various lessons early on that would essentially be the foundation of his work ethic. He worked various odd jobs during a period of six years before deciding to re-enter the military. Mack's military career. Drawing methods were primarily instituted to help trauma survivors to provide a detailed description of the traumatic event as they work to master their emotions concerning the incident. and acute or chronic psychological disorders. torture. Tarson entered into the military with hopes of searching for his father. terrorist attack. Georgia. His work in several different industries did not teach him the same value of hard work that he learned while working in the pea fields. hostage situation. What is it? The reoccurring experience of a traumatic event(s) that also involves symptoms of hyperarousal and the avoidance of anything that may promote the re-experiencing of the trauma. accidents. physical symptoms. (continued on page 5 ) 2 . Although some may view his military discharge as being the end of SSgt. His decision was based on the need to support his family. incarceration as a prisoner of war (POW). Mack (Ret. One such worker who was known to be successful was Tarson’s grandmother. A workman in the pea fields was only as good as the amount of peas that were picked in a given day. What types of trauma? Trauma can include events that are experienced directly such as military combat. Those individuals who were successful were noted as those who “beat the fields” which means that they picked more peas than anyone else. so he left the military after four years of service.It was after serving a total of 17 years in the military that Tarson was medically discharged from the military. as well as learning about the unexpected harm/death of a family member or close associate. It was his first time out of his hometown of Dublin. violent personal assault. As a 19 year-old youth. Art therapy has evolved to include the treatment of PTSD in an effort to help the individual to focus on the reconstruction of the event and help with managing stress. his artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits demonstrate that it is only the beginning of a new chapter in his life. disasters. Annie Mack.

He began to seek opportunities to utilize his skillset and generate revenue in order to support his family. Roberts taught Tarson the art of carving eggshells. His wife had a chance encounter with a fellow artist at a retirement facility that would open up artistic horizons. Tarson learned how to be industrious from working with his uncles who were cabinetmakers in Dublin a small factory town in Georgia. This demotion created an economic hardship that would be the catalyst for a new venture. His environment caused him to have a deep desire to look for uniqueness and opportunities for self-expression. The change in focus caused him to understand that the military was not as fulfilling to him as it initially was when he initially joined the Army. Tarson later came in contact with Lew Jensen. 3 . Mr. Mack (Ret.) was met with various challenges in his career that culminated into a demotion in rank. Jensen is also into high tech engraving that is a major influence in Tarson’s artistry. a dentist and author of “Profitable Hobbies”. Tarson now engraves artistic expression in ostrich eggs. He began to develop his artistic skills through his work with cabinetry.Although he learned how to be diligent from working in the pea fields. SSgt. As a soldier. Mr.

2. Tarson Mack takes on the artistic approach of creating art that is therapeutic in nature. occupational. helplessness. Woodcarving provides him with an emotional release that he is unable to achieve by other means.) . 6. and the proximity of exposure to the traumatic event are important in determining the likelihood of developing PTSD. The reduced rate of his heartbeats sets the course and the process of sculpting. duration. This is the legacy that he hopes to leave with people who purchase his art. Tarson expressed his a desire to disprove the lyrics of John Mellencamp's song. 3.Did You Know? Factors such as the severity. doesn’t mean it’s not there. Disturbance has to cause what mental health professionals consider as being “clinically significant distress or impairment” in different areas of functioning (i. Here are the criteria used by mental health professionals for a diagnosis of PTSD. yet they are not diagnosed with PTSD. Mack indicates that woodcarving itself does not provide him with a sense of enjoyment. He indicates that the outcome of the product is the reward because he receives enjoyment from the public’s enjoyment of his work. "Crumblin' Down" by being a loving. etc. or horror. Wigan is noted as entering into a meditative state that helps him to work on his intricate pieces of art. SSgt. 1. Exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor. Individual’s response to the experience involves intense fear. 7. trustworthy person who produces art that people can enjoy. Persistent avoidance of those things that are associated with the trauma. 4. He says that he sometimes feels depressed as if he is not getting anywhere and he is wasting his time. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal. This approach is conducive to art therapy in those individuals who experience PTSD. 5.” – Willard Wigan Taking the philosophy and inspiration of Willard Wigan. 4 Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD: Many individuals do not understand the reason many individuals can go through similar events. “Just because you can’t see something. Persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event. – social. Symptoms must be present for more than one month. A numbing of general responsiveness.e. The process includes slowing down his heartbeat so that he can reduce any hand tremors.

“I have had requests for woodcarvings of material that does not fall in line with what I believe. however.” 5 “I view my art as a legacy that I hope to leave for my children. 2) Research studies on the use of art therapy in assisting veterans to cope with PTSD suggest that this therapeutic approach yielded the greatest benefits when compared to other approaches. There are some research findings that also indicate that art therapy is more effective in working with this population than verbal therapy. He has seen fellow “My spirituality is the basis of me not going the route of suicide. He indicates that he does not believe that everyone is made to go to college.” – Tarson Mack . A retrospective look at his life experience caused him to understand that although his life got harder with age. Tarson believes that people should find out what they are good at and develop that skill.” Though financial prosperity is welcomed. he does not consider himself as an academic nor education as the sole means for pursuing success.(continued from pg. I believe that we are given gifts and talents and that we should use them because we will reap what we sow. He desires to produce meaningful artwork that coincides with his belief system. I learned I must go the route that brings peace. The multiple deployments have provided SSgt. he knows that God is always with him. They found that those individuals who performed drawing tasks experienced fewer to less severe nightmares when compared to those individuals who performed writing tasks. Mack with an introspective view to his personal spiritual development. Mack indicates that his artistic expression is also a means of spiritual and personal expression. He advises that the pursuit of skill development will take you places in life. Tarson shares that although he enjoys reading and philosophy. He is motivated to “…get something out of life because God gave us life so that we can prosper in that life. SSgt. Some findings suggest that the pleasurable distraction found in artistic expression provided veterans with the ability to tolerate war-zone content without negative short-term side effects.” His experiences caused him to realize that he should live life moment by moment and be grateful and thankful of all that he does have in life. This study compared the drawing tasks and writing tasks of members of this population. One particular study provided information on those veterans suffering from combat-related PTSD who were awakened by nightmares.

This process provides the art therapist and the client the ability to create a clear narrative of the trauma. A. Art therapy for combat-related PTSD: Recommendations for research and practice. Improved self-esteem Participants of group art therapy can experience an increase in self-esteem as they openly express their traumatic experiences through artistic expression. C. Enhancement of emotional self-efficacy “Emotional self-efficacy” involves the ability of an individual to be assured in their ability to effectively and appropriately express their emotions. & Malchiodi. The client is able to begin to integrate the traumatic experience into their personal history. This process causes the individual to transform the event from an active experience that is in the present to a passive experience that is part of the individual’s history. This addresses the hyperarousal symptomatology outlined in the characteristics of PTSD. 2006) 1. 5. **Collie. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 4. which is the reason that it can be ideal for addressing the emotional numbness that is experienced by clients with PTSD. 6. Creating art can be a pleasurable experience for the client especially when there is an interest by others. Reactivation of positive emotion Art therapy is believed to promote the awakening of emotions through artistic expression. 3. Whatever experiences. fragmented memories. & Malchiodi. 7. **(Collie. Externalization Art therapy is an external method of allowing individuals to separate themself from the problem and make it easy for them to address the issue. 23:4. or emotions that are being avoided is used to address the avoidance symptoms that is characteristic of PTSD. K. 2.. meditative nature of artistic expression can act as a change agent in the individual’s level of arousal.. Clinical Approaches to PTSD from an Art Therapy Perspective 6 . This helps the therapeutic process as positive emotions are elicited and a rewarddriven motivation to participate in the creative process. The individual is able to become the observer who is able to look at what is produced with some emotional distance. Backos. The integration process is external providing the individual with control over how they experience the memories. Reconsolidation of memories Takes a non-verbal approach to creating a clear narrative of the traumatic event from the incoherent. 157-164. Reduction of arousal The relaxing. their research committee provided seven key primary therapeutic mechanisms for treating clients with PTSD. (2006). This method of non-verbal exposure is found to be less threatening to the client as the therapist controls the level of overt symbolism that is used during therapy. Backos. as members remain supportive of each other. The transparency in a non-judgmental environment creates an environment for growth. objects. Progressive exposure It is the practice of symbolic exposure through artistic expression.In a survey conducted by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). Participants in artistic expression build their confidence as they learn of their ability to control the expression of emotions in such a way that is not overwhelming to themselves or to others.

com CHBC CEO – Academic Research Solutions Donetta.For More Information: To learn more about Tarson Mack. professional. TX. or speaking engagements you may contact him at: Sgt Mack’s Wood Sign Studio “Giving Gifts A Lift” (254) 220-1795 Tarson. his If you or someone you know have a motivating story of academic. MS. 76549 (888) 445-1116 (phone) (888) 479-3685 (fax) http://www. please contact .ars-mhrcs. Academic Research Solutions Donetta Quinones.Mack@us. and spiritual development. We would love to share your story.O. Box 690264 Killeen. personal.Quinones@resesarch4usolutions.

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