In this week’s National Endowment for the Arts podcast, art therapist Melissa Walker takes us through the Healing Arts program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. NICoE is a four-week program for service members suffering from traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and other psychological trauma. The state-of-the-art facility on the Walter Reed campus provides an integrated approach to treatment in a holistic, patient-centered environment. And the Healing Arts Program—which consists of the visual arts, music, and writing—plays a central role in the assessment and treatment of these service members. The NEA is partnering with NICoE to investigate the impact that arts interventions may have on the psychological and cognitive health of these wounded troops. In fact, beginning this past January, NICoE has incorporated the National Endowment for the Arts’ writing program Operation Homecoming into therapeutic sessions with patients and their families.
As the Healing Arts Program’s designer and coordinator, as well as its sole visual arts therapist, Melissa Walker is an enthusiastic, committed, and thoughtful guide to the role that art can play in healing wounded service members and their families. From our conversation, it’s clear that Walker felt challenged and stimulated by her work with the service members at NICoE.