Professor Jennifer DeLucia worked with faculty and administrators from across the University to lay the framework for programs and curricula rooted in existing University strengths. “Syracuse is a great place for creative arts therapy,” she says. “Not only will our programs draw on the wealth of expertise and breadth of knowledge within the other VPA departments; Falk College’s marriage and family therapy, human development and family science, and social work programs; and the School of Education’s clinical mental health counseling program, but we are also distinguished by our unique connection with the University’s veteran resources.”

Jennifer DeLucia and Frankie Bartolomie in NVRC Gallery
Professor Jennifer DeLucia and master’s student Frankie Bartolomie discuss material produced for the elective art therapy course DeLucia co-teaches.

Because of Syracuse University’s tremendous investment in supporting veterans and active-duty personnel—both among students and in the wider community—the institution is uniquely positioned to advance therapeutic practice in military-connected populations, says DeLucia. DeLucia, who is also a research associate for the University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF), has investigated the disconnect between many veterans’ military experiences and the stereotypes and assumptions they navigate when transitioning back to civilian life. This disjunction can lead to veterans feeling misunderstood and isolated—sentiments that are often exacerbated by social pressure to adapt to and accommodate civilian norms.

Art therapy has proven to be effective in helping veterans seeking opportunities for personal growth, as well as in addressing depression and other mental health concerns, and also in changing those conventional perceptions that can make reintegration into society very challenging, DeLucia says. The collaboration between the University’s creative arts therapy department and IVMF presents opportunities to meet the needs of this underserved population.

Art therapy can be applied in communal contexts as well as in individual and clinical counseling. The creative arts therapy department manages a gallery for community engagement around topics related to veterans and the military experience. This new campus asset is located in the National Veterans Resource Center. “Our work in the gallery evolves from the understanding that art can bridge divides, facilitate conversations and increase empathy,” says DeLucia, who serves as curator. “Our intention is to engage our community in transformative and therapeutic art experiences.”