Second Lady Sees Art Therapy in Action at Hawaii Base
By Army Lt. Jason Kilgore, Schofield Barracks Health Clinic, and Ana Allen, Regional Health Command Pacific, Defense.gov
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii, April 25, 2017 — Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, visited with military and civilian leaders here yesterday to talk about how art therapy is being used to help service members and their families deal with difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses.
Tripler Army Medical Center Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Dr. Patricia Nishimoto, shares information with Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, about Tripler’s 11th annual Oncology on Canvas event at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, April 24, 2017. During the event, oncology patients and their families use art therapy as a way to deal with the effects of cancer and its treatment. Army photo by Spc. Tyler M. Jones
Art therapists and patients at the clinic have unfettered access to their tools: pens, paper, brushes, ceramics and more.
Pence, a champion for art therapy programs, visited the arts and crafts building at Schofield, where she spoke with patients currently enrolled in art therapy programs.
Using Art Therapy to Heal
“It’s very encouraging today to see at Schofield Barracks everything they’re doing to incorporate art therapy. From the family to volunteer programs, outpatient, we touched on music therapy and dance therapy, education -- there were so many areas that we touched on today. This is a place that is really doing it right. This is a place that is really using art therapy to heal our soldiers and their families,” Pence said.
Army Col. Deydre Teyhen, the clinic commander, talked with Pence about how patients, from the clinic enrolled in the intensive outpatient department orchild-adolescent and family behavioral health services or mental health care can utilize the alternative care program in coordination with their providers.
“For the right patient, art therapy becomes a powerful tool in the healing process,” Teyhen said. “There’s incredible flexibility within the therapy program, which can be tailored to the needs, interests and capabilities of the patient and applied regardless of age. Both patients and providers express how vital the evidence-based care is in the recovery process.”
Pence said she has seen, first hand, the benefits of art therapy as an artist herself.
“As an educator...I’m an art teacher and I don’t have the qualifications to do art therapy,” she said.
“Art therapy is not arts and crafts. It’s not even someone like me with a master’s degree in art education. It’s not something I could do," Pence continued. “So, art therapy is where you take these amazing professionals here who are therapists, who understand psychology and they understand how the mind works and they are using art as helping them with healing. So, if someone is not verbal, they are using visual art, they are using music, dance. These are ways that they are helping the soldiers cope, and we actually see how working through art therapy does heal the brain. It’s astonishing.”
Family Members Benefit, Too
Dr. Lisa Gomes, a clinical psychologist and play therapist and Expressive Arts Group-Therapy facilitator, also discussed with Pence about how she is using art therapy with children.
“During our sessions…we like to keep our adolescent patients engaged by using forms of therapy that cater to their age, she said.” One form of therapy that is popular among children is modeling clay. With an in-house kiln, it’s easy to have the patients create their pieces of art and immediately put it the kiln to be fired and then painted,” Gomes said.
Tripler Army Medical Center Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Dr. Patricia Nishimoto also shared information with Pence about Tripler's 11th annual Oncology on Canvas event, which has proven to be a meaningful program for participants. During the event, oncology patients and their families use art therapy as a way to deal with the treatment of life-threatening diseases and impacts to the family.
“Art therapy is becoming more popular within the military medical community," Teyhen said. “However, this kind of care isn’t always feasible in a typical clinical room setting. It takes the community coming together to bring a wide range of therapy mediums to our patients.”
For example, the Resiliency Through Arts program is a community partnership with Morale Welfare and Recreation and the clinic’s Intensive Outpatient Program, or IOP, where participants focus on the process of personal expression through art, in a small group setting at the arts and crafts center.
“Through attending the IOP courses, I have learned a new appreciation for art. It is no longer just paint on canvas or charcoal on paper. It’s a feeling,” said Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Roscoe.
“When I created this picture,” said Roscoe, referring to his creation, “there was nothing there, nothing in my headspace. Then something amazing happened, and it was clarity.”
Another Intensive Outpatient Program participant, Army Staff Sgt. Nate Hibbs, experienced similar success.
“Being a part of this great program has given me a new perspective on life and many outlets for my anger and anxiety that I did not know I was capable of,” Hibbs said. “The painting was my first-ever, and I truly enjoyed the peace and feeling of accomplishment that I get when I finish one.”
It sometimes is overlooked that the military’s veterans’ assistance programs can work with art museums, community leaders and churches, Pence said.
“Sometimes we do things isolated and we don’t understand that someone right around the corner is doing a similar thing -- is someone I could partner with. I would just say they are doing everything right here. They have got the whole pie they are working with," she said.
Pence also emphasized the effectiveness of such programs, describing a moment when she saw art therapy make a difference during the tour.
“I hear from art therapists, I heard from several today that art therapy saves lives. It can take someone who is contemplating suicide and turn them right around and flip it right over, “she said. “I heard a soldier say today, ‘I was in a hole and working with clay helped me come out of that hole. I am completely healed; I am not on any medications.’ Just to see people tell these testimonies to me, to say it actually saved my life is just a powerful, powerful tool.”
Near the end of her visit, Pence shared her three hopes for the future of art therapy within the military medical setting.
“No. 1, I want to lift up the profession of art therapy. You have people here at Schofield Barracks that actually are trained art therapists,” she said.
“No. 2, I want people to go into the profession,” Pence continued. “There are so many people who are saying, ‘I like art. I like psychology. Maybe this is something I could go into.’ We are never going to have enough art therapists.”
And third, Pence wants injured or ill warriors to know art therapy can help them.
“I want people to understand that this is an avenue for you,” she said. “If you are someone who feels like you are in that hole, if you feel like you need help, art therapy might be the thing that would help you step out of that hole that you are in. My desire would be for more and more of our military families to know there is help out there.”
Art therapy resources are available to TRICARE beneficiaries through a doctor referral.