Art Therapy Benefits Combat Veterans with PTSD in a Randomized Trial

Kat Michel, The American Art Therapy Association
Oct 28, 2015 5:30 PM ET

Ted Bosworth from Family Practice News covered a recent collaboration between the Hampton VA Medical Center and the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) Art Therapy Program that represents the first of its kind: a randomized trial that examines art therapy treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the VA. Though art therapy did not significantly impact improvement in PTSD symptoms, there was a tendency toward higher participant satisfaction and decreased symptoms of depression in participants who received the adjunctive art therapy sessions. Dr. Kathleen Decker, a psychiatrist with the Hampton VA and one of two Principal Investigators, suggests that the significance of the art therapy intervention may become more prominent with a greater sample size.

The origin of this research can be traced to Melissa Campbell, a then-art therapy student from the EVMS Art Therapy Program who initiated the study for her student thesis project. Although not formally trained in Intensive Trauma Therapy (ITT), a treatment model created by Linda Gantt and Lou Tinnin, Campbell developed the art therapy protocol based on ITT’s neurobiological approach to trauma. While under supervision from her program, she conducted all eight sessions of art therapy with the experimental group and recently presented the findings alongside Dr. Decker during the 2015 American American Art Therapy Association (AATA) Annual Conference.

Though Campbell has since graduated, the results from this research have yielded further lines of inquiry. A project that began with three participants during Campbell’s original thesis study soon expanded to twenty and has since remained open. Dr. Sarah Deaver, current Research Director of the EVMS Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling Program and immediate Past President of the AATA, recently took on the role as Principal Investigator. Two EVMS art therapy student interns, Christa Turpin and Vanessa Pierce, continue to add breadth and depth to an already-rigorous study design by maintaining data collection and compiling qualitative information through participant interviews, respectively. Dr. Deaver has further identified intent to seek grant-funding for multi-site research.

Access Ted Bosworth's article in Family Practice News  and learn more about AATA and the benefits of art therapy.