Minnesota veterans treat post-traumatic stress with art therapy

Post-traumatic stress affects thousands of veterans. Therapy and counseling certainly helps, but one organization in the Twin Cities takes a different approach by connecting veterans to their inner creativity.

The pallet of colors you see is more than just paint on paper.  For many veterans it is freedom, and it comes from a non-profit program called Ars Bellum.

"Ars Bellum is the art of war,” Iraq war veteran Michael Kemp said.  “And that's the reason it was chosen, because it's emphasizing the art of veterans in this was that you see in front of you here." 

Kemp helps other vets use art to heal their post-traumatic stress.  But this is different -- where we see art, there's actually a hidden story.

"One of the ways that art therapy differs from other forms of therapy is the cognitive basis of it take it out of the normal realm of communicating the way we talk to each other which is sort of the normal way of going to therapy,” Bridget Cronin, Ars Bellum CEO, said. “It engages a different part of the brain and one that is most closely connected with PTSD."

The best part is that no one needs to be an artist.

"One of the things that we start with actually in our first sessions are these collage projects, because all they have to do is pick up pieces and glue them onto a piece of paper,” Cronin said.  “And this helps us get to know who they are, they get to introduce themselves through pictures." 

And over time, creatively work out their stress.

“The unique thing about Ars Bellum is the art therapy is a new and growing field in Minnesota and people especially who have not been able to find the help they need through more traditional therapies can call Ars Bellum and try a new way to get at an old problem,” Kemp said.

Ars Bellum is conducting its fall classes now at the VFW in Bloomington.  They have goal of serving 300 veterans in 2016.