Dr. Jonathan Shay touts importance of the arts in veteran healing

Jonathan Shay is a world reknown psychiatrist and author of several books on combat trauma. Last Wednesday night he spoke at the University of Maine, where he gave a keynote speech entitled “Combat Trauma and the Trials of Coming Home.” Among the topics he discussed was the “healing power” of storytelling:

Dr. Jonathan Shay. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Dr. Jonathan Shay. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

“There is an enormous healing power to know one’s story is understood by another person, and then that person retells the story in a way that has the authenticity, the truth content, that the trauma survivor can say, ‘Yeah, somebody listened. Somebody cared.‘”

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, Shay said that “narrative, drama and visual arts can all be vehicles for sharing that trauma.”

Now, I’m not saying you’d ask this, because you might actually be awesome at creative things, but some of us might be asking, “But what if I suck? I can’t write. I can’t paint. I can’t uh, do… art.”

Doesn’t matter, Shay says, because the creative outlet itself is what does the healing, not the finished product. “You just have to do it.

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