Painting has given one Veteran a way to get her experiences and feelings out through her art.

The Creative Arts Therapy program at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) supports Veteran’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual health with the use of art and music therapies.

For Air Force Veteran and breast cancer survivor Doreen Patrick, the program gave her an outlet to express her fears, feelings and anxiety.

“I wasn’t sure how beneficial this program was going to be for me,” she said. “Chemo was rough, and I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, once I started painting, I was able to express the chaos that I was feeling all around me on a medium and then was better able to discuss what was going on with my therapist.”

Patrick painting at the Malcom Randall VA in Gainesville, Florida.

Emotions pouring out through her art

According to Creative Arts Therapist Sarah Stephens, a cancer diagnosis can affect a person’s psyche.

“Painting gave Doreen a way to get her experiences and feelings out onto a canvas,” Stephens said. “Her emotions really started pouring out through her art.”

The importance of participating in the program became even more crucial after Patrick underwent a mastectomy earlier this year.

“Doreen’s paintings have really come a long way,” Stephens said. “Her recent abstract piece is incredible and really demonstrates what she was feeling all around her during this very difficult season in her life.”

Creating a world without COVID

“I have a strong religious faith and my church has been very supportive and understanding,” Patrick said. “However, I don’t attend church because of COVID. Art therapy helps me feel not so isolated, depressed or lonely. I can work thorough those feeling with art and create a world without COVID. How amazing is that?”

Stephens explains that things come up organically during creative art therapy sessions that just don’t come out through conventional therapy methods. Despite currently being in the monitoring stage for reoccurance of breast cancer, Patrick feels spiritually enlightened because of her new found love of painting.

“Art gave her a way to realize what she was supressing,” Stephens added.

“I was skeptical about doing creative art therapy at first, but I would recommend it to anyone, no matter what your diagnosis,” Patrick said. “You never know what will come out of it, and it has definitely made a difference in my life.”

The Creative Art Therapy program at NF/SGVHS is offered through VA Video Connect, and at the Malcom Randall and Lake City VA Medical Centers.

Veterans enrolled for primary care, rehabilitative care, and/or behavior health services at North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) are eligible to receive creative arts therapy.

Those Veterans interested in the program can ask for a creative art therapy consult during their next North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) appointment.

About the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems. It employs more than 5,800 medical professionals and support staff. They’re dedicated to providing high quality care to Veterans residing throughout North Florida and South Georgia.

The organization operates 14 facilities, including two medical centers located in Gainesville and Lake City, a domiciliary and clinics located throughout a 50-county service area.

By Melanie L. Thomas is a public affairs officer with the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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Published on Sep. 3, 2021

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