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The Use of Creativity As Therapy

Originally published on ChuckSchmalzried.net

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When veterans return home from war, they tend to experience difficulties in readjusting to civilian life and coping with trauma as a result of their tours. The resources available for veterans are sparse, and identifying how to effectively manage stress and navigate ordinary life can be a challenge. For veterans like Omar Columbus, creative pursuits can be the answer.

Columbus was discharged after spending more than a decade in the service of the United States Air Force. During the course of his service, Columbus spent time in Colorado Springs, Japan, Spain, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. He worked in demanding areas such as logistics and military intelligence. After serving in the military, Columbus was medically discharged, and soon after, he made his way to New York City in pursuit of his future.

Two years later, Columbus found himself homeless and unemployed. During his job search, he became connected with an organization called Warrior Writers, in which veterans are encouraged to process their experiences, overcome their trauma, and transform their lives through artistic practices. It was in this organization that Columbus became connected to art, specifically poetry and photography.

For Columbus, photography provides a tool to break down barriers and reveal the true beauty of the world. Finding these moments and images of beauty grants Columbus the opportunity to appreciate his surroundings and his life. Writing and performing his own poetry is therapeutic, as well. In writing poems about his military experience, Columbus can translate his thoughts into words. Key terms related to his trauma (such as bomb or combat) are dissociated from his experience and are transformed instead into a part of his artistic expression, making it easier to comprehend and accept. Sharing these pieces with others allows him to communicate his negative emotions with his peers, both with and without military experience themselves, and he claims that doing so provides relief and a source of genuine connection.

Each veteran will likely find a different means of coping with their trauma and adjustment to everyday life. Identifying a productive way to acknowledge, process, and grow beyond their trauma can help veterans embrace their passions and work toward a productive and prosperous future.

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