Putting the Pieces Back Together


In life, the reality is things are never perfect. Things fall apart sometimes, and that is ok. Therapy can feel like putting the pieces of a challenging jigsaw puzzle back together. There are so many pieces and components of one’s life. Our goal at the Road Home Program is to help veterans learn to strike a balance in their everyday lives that will help them through the more challenging times.

Many veterans often feel that emotions are simply not ok to express. Some struggle to express their emotions at all. In reality, it is healthy and necessary to have the ability to express one’s emotions. It is part of the healing process. Burying emotions or negative experiences deep down is damaging and can hinder one’s ability to live a balanced and healthy life.

Embracing that life has ups and downs is a healthy way to cope. Challenges will certainly come our way, some dramatically more intense than others. If we are able to pick ourselves up after a challenge, then the smaller challenges or puzzle pieces are able to come together more easily into the larger picture.

We find art therapy is a crucial component of the Intensive Outpatient Program. Art is used as a therapeutic tool to help veterans navigate confusing and complex emotions brought on by PTSD. The mask intervention utilized in art therapy is simple in theory, but tremendously powerful in practice. We all have masks we wear that change depending on the situation. We have a public self and a private self. Spending some time exploring these parts of ourselves can help us gain insight, and noticing similarities in others’ masks can help support validation. Some veterans in our program express that they feel broken or damaged. Some feel they have to put on a façade. Veterans often portray through art-making that on the outside, they feel they need to be strong and unbreakable. Underneath or behind the mask, on the inside, they often feel broken and numb.

Learning, practicing, and reinforcing coping skills helps veterans navigate stressful situations or experiences. Being able to express themselves in a visual way, with vulnerability and honesty, will help the veterans tremendously on their healing journey. Giving veterans a holistic art therapy component while at Road Home allows the other moving parts of the IOP to come together into a fuller picture that will foster growth and success.

Stephanie Clark
Art Therapist at the Road Home Program

The Road Home Program provides mental health care and wellness to veterans of all eras, service members, and their families at no cost and regardless of discharge status. If you or a loved one needs help, call us at (312) 942-8387 (VETS) or fill out the Get Care form.