Art Therapy: A Marriage of Expression and Healing

Story Number: NNS190320-05Release Date: 3/20/2019 12:54:00 PM
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By Sarah Hauck, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Public Affairs

CAMP LEJEUNE (NNS) -- One of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s (NMCCL) newest team members works with service members through the Intrepid Spirit Concussion Recovery Center (ISCRC), arming them with paint brushes, pencils and their own hands to combat their newest battle of diagnoses with Traumatic Brain Injury or concussive-event injuries.

ISCRC’s Creative Forces Program Manager Danielle Braxton leads group and individual art therapy sessions as a means of working with those enrolled in the clinic’s program.

Art therapy, according to Braxton, is a “marriage” of therapeutic treatment as well as art.

“They are able to use art-making and the creative process as a way to deal with difficult emotions or other traumas they have received,” said Braxton. “Basically, they are able to use art to work through those things like they would in traditional therapy.”

Art therapy isn’t an art lesson, Braxton explained, but rather a way of introducing different materials to patients in order to encourage the creative process of art making.

Most of the sessions are focused on creating, with time to discuss pieces once the patient has decided they are finished.

It is these moments of explanation of their pieces that introduce the therapy, Braxton said.

“For whatever reason our brains allow us to bypass that area to find the words and do art. Then once we have the art, it allows us to come back around to that verbal place and actually talk about the things that are in the artwork,” said Braxton. “Usually, the conversations, whether they are here or with other therapists, or with their families, expand far beyond the artwork itself.”

The most common project associated with art therapy is the creation of a mask; many of these masks are on display at ISCRC.

The purpose of the project, like all of the projects within the program, is to encourage expression of self.

“[Mask making] always focuses on their identity. Often they are struggling with that when they come to therapy,” said Braxton. “They are trying to figure out what they are doing now, who they are based on what they’ve learned while going through the clinic, for example maybe a new diagnosis. It helps them to just really get focused on themselves and take some time and really see who they are.”

Art therapy is a crucial element of treating the whole patient, Braxton said, which is the focus of each patient at ISCRC.

“We support each other while we’re trying to take care of these patients because it is difficult work. It can be very challenging at times, but also every person who touches that patient knows them in a different way. You can gain a lot by listening to others talk about things that are going well in their treatment. That is a really great ability to be able to offer the whole person when we are treating them here.”

Braxton’s passion for art and helping heal those working through treatment are highlights to her job as an art therapist at NMCCL.

Helping those in uniform adds an additional level of “honor” and drive for Braxton in being able to provide art therapy.

“On a daily basis, how they use materials is often a learning experience for me, showing me ways I would have never thought of using the material,” she said. “But they also show me how powerful art can be. I’ve used art all my life to express myself, yet, I come in here, and I see how they use it to express themselves, how they deal with their daily struggles through art and the power it really has to make them feel better.”


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Art Therapy: A Marriage of Expression and Healing
Creative Forces Program Manager Danielle Braxton oversees a Sailor working through an art project at Intrepid Spirit Concussion Recovery Center. Braxton works as an art therapist for those working through the ISCRC program as a means of expressing their thoughts and feelings. (U.S. Navy Photo by Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Public Affairs Officer Riley Eversull)
March 20, 2019
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