The Language of Art

Posted by Paula Paine on May 23, 2011 in "Academic Programs", Arizona, "art therapy", Community, counseling, Faculty/Staff, "School of Arts and Sciences" Two veteran counselors and a current student recently helped four veterans of foreign wars engage in hands-on healing during a 10-week art therapy group developed by the American Healing Arts Foundation. Ed Rooney ’04 and Dixie Ciccarelli ’05 are both graduates of Ottawa University-Arizona and met in pursuit of their master’s in counseling with an art therapy concentration. David Burkett is a student of Ciccarelli, who is an adjunct instructor in OU’s Expressive Arts Therapy program. All three were given the opportunity to work with vets who longed for the ability to share what they had gone through during their active duty, how their life had changed and what life was like for them when they returned from war. Because words to share their experiences often come hard, art provided an alternative venue of communication for the veterans. The therapists’ group consisted of four veterans from four different wars - Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom - who ranged in age from 35 to 79. “The first questions they asked were, ‘What is art therapy; are we broken; and are you going to fix us?’ These surprising questions helped guide us during the weeks that followed by showing the men how to express themselves using creativity instead of simply words to communicate,” said Ciccarelli. Within a few weeks, the men began to open up about their service experiences and learned that they shared many of the same situations, concerns and feelings. Each received understanding and compassion and the knowledge that they were not alone. “After one session, our eldest vet said, ‘Wow, you really got a lot out of us today,” said Ciccarelli. “That is what it is all about.” Each member of the group has requested to stay a part of each other’s lives, as well as staying in touch with the facilitators of the group. “Ed, David and I hope that this volunteer experience will turn into an amazing journey in working with our veterans, bringing healing, hope and creativity to their lives,” said Ciccarelli.