Mary Roberts, EdS, Program Director of the Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling Program and Associate Professor in the School of Health Professions at EVMS, is pleased to announce that EVMS’ new Arts for Optimal Health Program has partnered with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and community arts organizations to provide art therapy to veterans and military service members transitioning to civilian life.

Open Studio Art Therapy Groups for these veterans and military service members will begin in March at EVMS. Groups at three other locations in Newport News, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach are slated to begin in April.

Art Therapy is a mental-health profession in which an art therapist facilitates engagement in the creative process with visual art processes and media to promote growth, healing and wellness for a variety of mental illnesses and life stressors.

The Arts for Optimal Health–Department of Veterans Services Project is designed to promote services that assist with reintegration into the civilian community, as well as improve quality of life, decrease distress, increase resilience and manage symptoms of mental illness. Group and individual art therapy will be offered through the new project, as well as links to other services.

“We are grateful to Margi Vanderhye, Executive Director of Virginia Commission for the Arts, who helped nurture the project,” Ms. Roberts says. Ms. Vanderhye facilitated collaboration between EVMS and Betty Ann Liddell, Director of Virginia Veteran and Family Support for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

Commissioner John Newby, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Gov. Ralph Northam, MD (MD ’84) also have promoted art therapy for veterans as innovative and necessary, Ms. Roberts adds.

The EVMS Arts for Optimal Health Program is hosted by the Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling Program in the EVMS School of Health Professions. The new program’s mission is to bring art therapy and arts engagement services to the community for wellness, healing and growth, supported through partnerships for education, research and patient care.