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Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services

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National Recreation Therapy Service

Creative Arts Therapies

Creative arts therapies are part of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Recreation Therapy Service and are direct-care programs that include the following disciplines: Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Music Therapy,

Creative Arts Therapists

Creative arts therapists are nationally certified clinical professionals who use arts modalities and creative processes to promote wellness and rehabilitation through unique personal interactions. Each creative arts therapy discipline has its own set of professional standards and requisite qualifications. Creative arts therapists are highly skilled, credentialed professionals having completed extensive coursework and clinical training.

  • Art Therapy: Is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.
  • Dance Therapy: Is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance for  emotional, cognitive, social, behavioral and physical conditions. 
  • Drama Therapy: Is the intentional use of theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote health, thus treating individuals with a range of mental health, cognitive and developmental disorders.
  • Music Therapy: Is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. The therapist uses music and all of its facets-physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual-to help Veterans to improve or maintain their health. 

Treatment Planning

Qualified creative arts therapists develop treatment goals, provide interventions, document progress, and participate as members of the interdisciplinary team. Therapists plan and carry out treatment programs that are directed to such goals as sensory integration; ambulation; community reentry; and reality orientation while providing a sense of achievement and progress and channeling energies into acceptable forms of behavior.


Research supports the effectiveness of creative arts therapies interventions in many areas, including overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement. Creative arts therapies further help patients to increase motivation to become engaged in treatment, provide emotional support for Veterans and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the postitive outcomes that can result from creative arts therapies, and especailly for those who are resistive to other treatment approaches.

Blowing Glass

Care Standards

Creative arts therapist adheres to standards of care that promote optimal outcomes for patients. Creative arts therapists utilize a wide range of techniques of clinical interventions in applying the healing potential and influence of the arts on behavior and quality of life. Creative arts therapies are listed in Joint Commission standards, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the National Institutes of Health National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. These therapies are recognized as viable treatment options.

Populations Served

Creative arts therapists create non-threatening group and individualized artistic experiences for individuals of all ages who confront life challenges related to physical and mental health conditions, on a daily basis.  Creative arts therapists provide and promote creative self-expression that is personally driven and individually focused.

Therapeutic Interventions

Creative arts therapists use the techniques, tools, and materials of their unique discipline for therapeutic purposes that promote creative self-expression in order to treat chronic pain, facilitate relaxation, facilitated physical rehabilitation, encourage communication and socialization, and to facilitate cognitive retraining for Veterans with neurocognitive disorders or traumatic brain injury.  In the treatment of substance abuse, art-based techniques provide unique opportunities to help Veterans break through barriers to the recovery process. For Veterans with physical disabilities, the creative arts therapists design arts experiences to increase motivation and promote rehabilitative goals.

Creative Arts Festival

Each year, VA sponsors the National Creative Arts Festival for U.S. military Veterans who are served at VA medical centers nationwide. This program enhances the physical, social, and emotional well-being of veterans who participate. The event is co-sponsored by VA, Veteran Service Organizations, and civic groups.

Creative Arts Therapy Organizations

The following are links to creative arts therapy organizations: