Department of Veterans Services Project
The DVS project is aimed at promoting services to assist with reintegration into the civilian community, as well as improving quality of life, decreasing distress, increasing resilience and managing symptoms of mental illness.
Group and individual art therapy will be offered through the new project. Open Studio Art Therapy Groups for these veterans and military service members began March 2018 at EVMS. Groups at other locations in Newport News and Portsmouth began Fall 2018.
*DVS Project participant artwork
Healing Virginia Beach - An Expressive Arts Project at MOCA (Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art)
Healing VB was launched in October 2019. The unique partnership provided EVMS art therapists, Geoffrey Thompson, PhD, LPAT, ATR-BC and Lisa Thomas, MS, Resident in Counseling, ATR-P with space in the community to facilitate Healing VB to assist individuals directly and indirectly impacted by the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Courthouse on May 31, 2019. The aim of the community expressive arts sessions is to make art and share experiences related to the mass shooting and community violence in a safe space facilitated by professionals who are trained to work with the community and trauma. Sessions are usually held on the last Monday of each month. The Healing VB Project would not be possible without the generous gifts from donors in the community.
This project was initially held at MOCA until community events were put on hold due to COVID-19 in March. From April 2020 until November 2020, all sessions were held virtually. On May 30, 2020, the art therapists and EVMS Art Therapy and Counseling faculty joined together to host a live-stream Facebook event. The event was held to recognize and prepare for the anniversary of the mass shooting. Geoffrey Thompson, PhD, ATR-BC, LCAT and Lisa Thomas, MS, ATR-P, Resident in Counseling, led the EVMS Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling faculty and one student during this live-streamed event to discuss ways of creating for self-expression and preparation for coping with the anniversary of the mass shooting. Whereas the event did directly engage participants it was seen by 1.1K viewers on and since that date. Each participant provided helpful tips in dealing with the mass shooting anniversary and demonstrated art materials and processes related to processing trauma and grief, dealing with potentially elevated levels of depression and anxiety, creating memorials, giving oneself permission to attend to self-care, and apply creativity through intentional play. Staff responded to comments and provided resources on Facebook for local remembrance ceremonies and opportunities for additional supports for healing.
Local news stations,13 NewsNow, WTKR, and WAVY filmed a session on November 7, 2019. Three employees from the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau and two reporters from each station participated in the session resulting in processing of the mass shooting and an opportunity to see EVMS Art Therapy in action at MOCA. In February, Healing VB Art Therapist Dr. Geoffrey Thompson, Program Director EVMS GATC Dr. Mary Roberts, LPC-ACS, ATR-BC, ATCS, MOCA Executive Director Gary Ryan and 5 members of Healing VB participated in a video recording for EVMS use in social media postings and on the website. It was an opportunity to provide a view in to a session and have previous participants weigh in on their experiences as well as reflections from Dr. Thompson, Dr. Roberts and Ms. Ryan.
The funding for this project ends in January 2021, participants will be encouraged to continue art making practices for coping and linked to other community supports.