Painting through the chaos - North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System
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North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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Painting through the chaos

Pictured is Air Force Veteran Doreen Patrick painting at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Pictured is Air Force Veteran Doreen Patrick painting at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida.

By Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, Public Affairs Officer, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System
Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Creative Arts Therapy program at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) supports Veteran’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual health with the use of art and music therapies.

For U.S. Air Force Veteran and breast cancer survivor Doreen Patrick, the program gave her an outlet to express her fears, feelings and anxiety.

“I wasn’t sure how beneficial this program was going to be for me. Chemo was rough, and I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed,” said Patrick. “However, once I started painting, I was able to express the chaos that I was feeling all around me on a medium, and then was better able to discuss what was going on with my therapist.”

According to Creative Arts Therapist, Sarah Stephens, cancer diagnosis can affect a person’s psyche.

“Painting gave Doreen a way to get her experiences and feelings out onto a canvas. Her emotions really started pouring out through her art,” said Stephens.

The importance of participating in the program became even more crucial after Patrick underwent a mastectomy earlier this year.

“Doreen’s paintings have really come a long way. Her recent abstract piece is incredible, and really demonstrates what she was feeling all around her during this very difficult season in her life,” said Stephens.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also added to Patrick’s fears and anxiety.

“I have a strong religious faith and my church has been very supportive and understanding, however, I don’t attend church because of COVID. I order my food to be delivered, limit my outside contact even though I received my vaccination, and wear my mask everywhere,” said Patrick. “Art therapy helps me not feel so isolated, depressed, or lonely. I can work thorough those feelings with art and create a world without COVID. How amazing is that!”    

Stephens explains that things come up organically during creative art therapy sessions that just don’t come out through conventional therapy methods.

“Art gave her a way to realize what she was suppressing.” said Stephens.

Despite currently being in the monitoring stage for reoccurance of breast cancer, Patrick feels spiritually enlightened because of her new found love of painting.

“I was skeptical about doing creative art therapy at first, but I would recomend it to anyone, no matter what your diagnosis,” said Patrick. “You never know what will come out of it, and it has definitely made a difference in my life.”

The Creative Art Therapy program at NF/SGVHS is offered through VA Video Connect, and at the Malcom Randall and Lake City VA Medical Centers. Veterans enrolled for primary care, rehabilitative care, and/or behavior health services at NF/SGVHS are eligible to receive creative arts therapy. Those Veterans interested in the program can ask for a creative art therapy consult during their next NF/SGVHS appointment.

About the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System
NF/SGVHS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems employing more than 5,800 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing high quality care to Veterans residing throughout North Florida and South Georgia. The organization operates 14 facilities to include two medical centers located in Gainesville and Lake City, a domiciliary and clinics located throughout a 50-county service area. 


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