Technology plus graphic-novel style art therapy for PTSD
Many veterans struggle with traditional talk-therapy treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma can be remembered as flashes of images and emotions – experiences difficult to express with words alone. But the experience of sexual assault or harassment while serving is actually even more likely than combat trauma to cause PTSD. This project adapts an innovative post-traumatic stress disorder therapy application for use with military sexual trauma. We train therapists to use it with MST survivors.
Warrior Stories is a Defense Department-sponsored app that was designed for processing combat trauma. It brings art therapy and narrative therapy together to provide a powerful means of communicating and processing a trauma experience and its aftermath. Using the app, a patient selects from a library of stylized image to create a visual representation of their experience, an emotional state, or a desired goal. The resulting images can be sequenced and annotated with text to help survivors process their experience with a therapist.
Starting in 2018, we worked with Kinection, creator of Warrior Stories, to expand and enhance the platform for use with MST survivors. The project involved creating a library of MST-relevant images, creating a therapy manual, and launching a pilot to teach therapists how to recognize MST and how to use the platform, to ensure that the provider is prepared to work with that survivor.
Training is crucial, because clinicians often fail to recognize as many as 95% of MST cases, lowering the likelihood that a survivor will enter or stay in treatment, or that the therapy will address their core issues. We are approved by National Organization of Veteran Advocates to train military victim advocates and accredited by the State of Illinois to provide CEUs to social workers, marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional counselors.
More than 100,000 Illinois veterans are estimated to be survivors of MST. Our expansion of Warrior Stories will give them a powerful means of communicating and working through the trauma experience and its aftermath, leading to greater healing.
This project is possible thanks to generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Grusecki Family Foundation, the Oberweiler Foundation, and Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
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