Maryland Offers New Micro-Credential Course For Creative Classrooms

BALTIMORE, MD (May 20, 2019) – This summer, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), the Fine Arts Office of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), and the Institute for Integrative Health (Institute) will present the Veteran-Ready Community Arts Micro-credential course, a new suite of competency-based professional learning courses for facilitators of creative classrooms geared toward veterans. An announcement event will take place on June 19th from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Institute’s headquarters in Baltimore. To RSVP for this event, send an email to info@mcreds.org

During the event, the Institute is pleased to present an exciting preview of Sticks & Stones, an exhibition featuring veteran art and their stories of healing through creative expression and other works related to trauma, substance  abuse, mental health challenges, and healing. Sticks and Stones is a New Day Campaign project curated by Peter Bruun, in partnership with JW Rone, the Institute’s Director of Veteran Initiatives.

The Institute, as partner and author of the course, will facilitate the two-day workshop focusing on engaging veterans in creative practice. Each course focuses on developing a specific skill and acquiring a specific knowledge reservoir for use in schools and communities, including music, dance, visual arts, literary arts, media arts, theatre, and multidisciplinary arts spaces. Participants are able to personalize their professional learning by selecting topics based on their own professional needs, successfully completing the course, and submitting evidence of mastery to receive the micro-credential. All courses are free.

Veterans often struggle as they transition from the active-uty military life they have known to the civilian world. Many veterans have discovered that engaging in the arts—painting, writing poetry, learning to play a musical instrument, dancing, and so on—provides a sense of wholeness that has shown in outcome evaluations to decrease anger, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and a sense of isolation. Arts engagement can play an important role in helping to place a veteran suffering from trauma on a path of healing and wellness.

“We’ve witnessed the power of arts engagement with the veteran community through our Vet Arts Connect program,” says Dr. Brian Berman, founder and president of the Institute for Integrative Health, a health-focused non-profit and think tank headquartered in Baltimore. “So much of healing takes place outside the doctor’s office. Art experiences can help to ease symptoms related to post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and depression.”

“This program will shine a light on the transformative power of the arts. The Maryland State Arts Council is proud to collaborate with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Fine Arts Office and The Institute for Integrative Health to positively impact the lives of service men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country,” said MSAC executive director Ken Skrzesz.

The Veteran-ready Community Arts Provider Training opens for registration this Spring and coincides with Governor Larry Hogan’s recent appointment of 2019 as Year of the Veteran. This year-long observance raises awareness of the brave service and sacrifices our United States veterans and families have made for Maryland and the country.

About MSAC

Founded in 1967, MSAC is an agency of the State of Maryland Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts, and encourages and invests in the advancement of the arts for all Marylanders. Its grants and programs support artists and arts organizations in their pursuit of artistic excellence, ensure the accessibility of the arts to all citizens, and promote statewide awareness of arts resources and opportunities. MSAC awards grants to not-for-profit, tax-exempt organizations and individual artists, and provides technical and advisory assistance to individuals and groups. The agency is funded by an annual appropriation from the State of Marylandand a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. MSAC may also receive contributions from private, non-governmental sources. For more information, go to msac.org.

About the Fine Arts Office of the Maryland State Department of Education

With a mission to promote meaningful engagement in arts education for all Maryland students, the Fine Arts Office seeks to support the rich network of 24 local school systems. Micro-Credentials for Creative Classrooms is their latest professional learning offering for facilitators of creative classrooms throughout Maryland. For more information, go to mcreds.org.

About The Institute for Integrative Health

The Institute for Integrative Health, a health-entered nonprofit and think-tank founded in 2007, works to build healthier communities by asking—and answering—questions that examine the biological, behavioral, and societal factors that impact health and wellness on a daily basis. In addition to supporting a team of  researchers (Institute Scholars and Fellows), who explores the science of integrative health, the Institute creates and tests programs with the goal of improving the health and wellness of the communities they engage.

Developing safety, persistence, trust

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Acquiring Resources

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
    • “I think I kept trying to convince him I was crazy. And he kept saying, ‘No, you’re not crazy.’ […] You wouldn’t necessarily say a Vietnam Vet was crazy. You’d say they are responding like you’d expect to extraordinary circumstances.”
    • “I’m not the only one who have [sic] this problem. A lots, millions of people, you know. […] They don’t have nothing to do with that. I guess I have to live.”
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
    “You need a lot of energy and a lot of work … it takes a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not like a magic wand.” This patient understood that they had to actively participate in the healing process.
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

Helping Relationships

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) “When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. Healing, in this sense, does not mean cured—none of the study participants were cured of their ailments—”but all developed a sense of integrity and wholeness despite ongoing pain or other symptoms.” In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” When we begin to heal, we find increased capacity for hope, renewed motivation to help others, and are more able to accept ourselves as we are.

Suffering

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. “The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”