Creative Arts Retreat for Veterans
The creative arts can play an integral part in helping veterans cope with their PTSD. Healing from PTSD requires processing the experience and the trauma, but recounting the experience in a detailed linier account will often aggravate one’s PTSD. Veterans are triggered by their memories and will try to repress them. They isolate, they avoid, they self-medicate…they do everything they can to not remember. PTSD makes it very difficult for veterans to talk about their experiences.
This is where the arts come in. You can paint a feeling, or draw the part of the story you are ready to tell. Also, when veterans show their art, they can communicate their truth without having to be the subject of the conversation. Instead of the listener looking at the veteran eye to eye, which can be disempowering and very uncomfortable, both the civilian and the veterans can look at the artwork, adding a layer of protection to the veteran. The creative arts allow the veteran to explore what they are ready to talk about in a way that isn’t as triggering as traditional talk therapy.
Warrior Songs is hosting a 4-day creative arts retreat for veterans with PTSD on December 6th-10th, 2017 at The Siena Center in Racine, WI. This retreat is free to the veterans selected to participate.
This is where we need your help. We’ve assembled a fantastic team of facilitators who are all donating their time for this event. The cost of the art supplies, transportation, lodging and food for 15 veterans and 6 staff for 4 days is $13,500 or $900 a veteran. Of this, we’ve raised $3,500 so we have $10,000 more to raise by November 2017.
It’s important to remember that every penny counts. No donation is too small to help us help these veterans. It breaks down to $9.38 an hour for each veteran who attends. $10 donations add up to a $40 donation, which covers a morning art session. $75 is 8 hours of a veterans healing. $225 covers a full day of one veteran to attend.
It’s no easy feat to raise $10,000 but with your help, we can get it done. Even if you are unable to donate, please share with your community.
If you know a veteran who might benefit from attending the retreat, please visit www.warriorsongs.org and fill out the application.
Warrior Songs is a 501.c3 non-profit, donations are tax-deductible.
PTSD is not a weakness and we don’t leave our wounded behind.
Report on Warrior Songs Creative Arts Healing Retreat: December 6th – 10th, 2017 at Siena Center in Racine, Wisconsin
Group Demographics – Who was served?
15 veterans participated in the December 2017 retreat. 7 men and 8 women from all from the Midwest. They represented the Army, Air Force, and Marines and they’ve served in Vietnam, The Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and various other locations around the world. Ages ranged from 34 – 67, and combined, they provided a total of 102 years of military service. Collectively, they had served a total of 20 combat deployments. There were 5 facilitators, 2 of whom were combat veterans and one was the spouse of a combat veteran.
Warrior Songs Retreat Model – How were the veterans served?
The Warrior Songs model is committed to removing all barriers, with the intention of assisting veterans who attend retreats to do so with ease, and with no financial cost involved. The retreat was completely free to the veterans who attended and each veteran was given a travel stipend to assist with travel expenses. The Racine retreat took place Dec. 6 – 10, 2017 at the Siena Center. Comfortable private rooms with private bathrooms were available to all attendees and meals were nutritious and hearty. Veterans were welcomed upon arrival Wednesday afternoon and quickly introduced to other attendees. The first evening included a brief overview and art activity to facilitate introductions and the building of a safe and trusting container. Nearly every veteran attendee spoke of their personal isolation, describing how they needed to push beyond that in order to show up for the retreat. Several reported arriving desperate for connection.
The first 2 full days of the retreat were spent creating art in response to guided activities specifically designed to help participants enter the depths of their trauma and to express resulting feelings through their creations. Topics covered included: initiation into the military, the physical and emotional weight carried during and after deployment, PTSD and how it effects one’s life, and how to integrate the experience and trauma and move forward. Each participant had ample opportunity to share and process their story. Staff was always available to veterans who became triggered, and needed one on one processing time.
On the 3rd day, the group transitioned to activities which focused on moving forward, using strengths and tools available to them as they continue the healing journey. The final exercise involved each person setting post retreat personal goals using the insights and discoveries necessary in leading a more connected and integrated life. Several staff members who are trained in meditation and relaxation work presented informative sessions throughout the retreat. These included a simple description of how PTSD causes actual physical changes in the brain, and helpful, practical ways to decrease anxiety and hypervigilance using different breathing and relaxation techniques. Participants reported this as an important piece of the retreat.
Saturday afternoon public event – Trauma Transformed Through Art: A Veteran Art Show
An underlying, but ongoing goal during the retreat was the group working toward a Saturday afternoon community presentation where veterans shared their stories through their art in a public forum. This event had a positive and healing impact on the veterans. It provided a focused “mission”, and allowed them to work both individually, as well as to support one another as a team. Participants spoke about how powerful it felt for them to overcome their fear of publicly expressing the truths they had kept suppressed for so many years. Others expressed elation at finally being heard after feeling silenced, invisible, misunderstood and abandoned by families and communities. Several mentioned how healing it felt to get the stories out and to leave them there, no longer needing to carry the burden of the memories. The facilitators were joined by 3 volunteer support staff who assisted during the art show.