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"The Scars Remain": A Wounded Warrior's Art Therapy Exhibit on Display at Military Medical Museum

By Lauren Bigge
NMHM Public Affairs Coordinator

The art ranges from a painting of three soldiers entitled "People Will Never Know Their Names" to a piece of canvas imprinted with ink and nailed to a wooden plank backing, entitled "Time to Water the Roots," an homage to a Thomas Jefferson quote: both are included in a new temporary art exhibit, "The Scars Remain," by retired U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy "Mike" Goodrich at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), a Department of Defense museum. "The Scars Remain" is on display at NMHM in Silver Spring, Maryland through February 2018.

Goodrich suffered career-ending combat-related injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, and while recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he built intricate models of airplanes and boats on his own to occupy his mind and work on his fine motor skills. He was admitted for treatment at Intrepid Spirit One, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence satellite at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia. Intrepid Spirit One supports active-duty service members in rehabilitative treatment for traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions through interdisciplinary treatment.

"Art therapy is essential for soldiers like me because you don’t start out sitting uncomfortably across from someone you don’t know while they ask you intimate questions about yourself so they can psychoanalyze your answers," Goodrich said. "Art therapy doesn’t have to involve words for as long as you don’t want to speak. When you assemble a piece of art, you are speaking through movement and brush strokes. The art comes first; when the time is right, the words will follow. When you are ready to talk about something that hurts to think about, that is when you know you are moving in a healthy direction."

Art therapy is one of the treatments offered by Intrepid Spirit One to support service members in their healing. Through group and individual art therapy sessions, service members engage in the creative process and artmaking that supports clinical goals to promote deeper insight and self-awareness by providing a safe platform for self-expression and processing of issues related to injury, identity, trauma, grief, moral injury, and pain. Their program worked for Goodrich: he was able to identify issues, confront grief and loss in a montage painting, work on projects at home and in individual art therapy sessions, and then recreate signs or symbols as a means to universally connect with previous and current generations.

"Incorporating art therapy into our behavioral healthcare track has added incalculable value to our program," said Nicole Moret, DNP, chief of Behavioral Health Services, Intrepid Spirit Center at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence. "It has helped our patients communicate, overcome stress, and explore different aspects of their own personalities. It provides our patients with yet another tool with which they can self-modulate their emotions."

Goodrich’s treatment began at Intrepid Spirit One in March 2014 under the guidance of creative arts therapist Jacqueline "Jackie" Jones; each piece he created has been part of the process of revisiting and coming to terms with his experiences. "These artworks allowed him to revisit times of his past on his own terms, at his own pace, instead of being forced into flashbacks. The growth he has made since beginning in the clinic is remarkable and the artwork documents the incredible process," she said.

"The process you go through to create the art stimulates the growth and healing process," Goodrich said. "In art therapy, you are tearing open wounds that aren’t healed properly in order to find what it is about those things that still cause the memories associated with them to be so painful. You are in total control of your mind and your environment. You move as fast or as slow as you want. You are relearning how to take control of you mind and make it work for you and not against you."

NMHM previously featured two art therapy exhibits: the first was from the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. "Unmasking the Trauma of War" featured masks made by wounded warriors treated at the Walter Reed facility, and was on display at NMHM in 2016. The masks were made in art therapy sessions as a conduit to artistically externalize and then process the patient’s feelings, experiences, and identities with the psychotherapeutic guidance of credentialed art therapists.

Another recent exhibit featured wounded warrior art therapy and was titled "Battle Signs," featuring art therapy projects from Intrepid Spirit One at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. "Battle Signs" was on display from July through October 2017.

NMHM is an element of the Defense Health Agency--Research and Acquisition Directorate. Fort Belvoir Community Hospital is part of the National Capital Region Medical Directorate of the Defense Health Agency.

 
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Caption: "Day 1 or Day 365" -- Work of art featured in "The Scars Remain: Reflections and Memories of Iraq and Afghanistan" by artist U.S. Army Sergeant Timothy "Mike" Goodrich (retired), from the art therapy program at Intrepid Spirit One, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence satellite at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. On display at National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, Maryland, November 2017 to February 2018. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart/ Released)
Caption: "Bronze Soldier/ Pause in the Conversation" -- Work of art featured in "The Scars Remain: Reflections and Memories of Iraq and Afghanistan" by artist U.S. Army Sergeant Timothy "Mike" Goodrich (retired), from the art therapy program at Intrepid Spirit One, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence satellite at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. On display at National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, Maryland, November 2017 to February 2018. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart/ Released)