NEA Launches New Music Therapy Component of Operation Homecoming Program

Creative arts therapy plays increasing role in standard of care for patients in military settings

November 16–The National Endowment for the Arts expands its landmark arts partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to bring music therapy to patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center including patients at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) located on the campus of Walter Reed Bethesda. $70,000 out of an annual budget of $200,000 to creative arts will go to fund the music therapy component. This new music therapy component of the NEA’s Operation Homecoming program reflects the growing use of creative arts therapy programs in healthcare settings. The NEA and Walter Reed have extended their commitment to partner on these efforts through 2015.

“The NEA is proud to join with the U.S. Department of Defense to significantly expand our mutual commitment to investigate how art works to help heal our wounded warriors who have sacrificed so much in service of our country,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “The NEA is honored that this partnership will help design and test neurologic music therapy programs for our service men and women being treated at Walter Reed.”

In a recent teleconference, Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, congratulated the NEA and NICoE in leveraging the arts to make a huge difference in peoples’ lives. She noted that during her time as governor she served as commander-in-chief of the national guard and saw thousands of service men and women deployed and greeted them on their return. She said that it is true for President Obama and his administration that there is no higher calling to service members and their families than to give them the full support and care they need to rejoin civilian life in comfort and good health. “Arts have the tools that can help–they calm our nerves, stimulate our minds and lift our spirits. As one example of our work together, Operation Homecoming is providing writing and music therapy to demonstrate how the arts can improve the lives of service men and women suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and psychological health conditions such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.”

The expanded Operation Homecoming program will integrate music therapy into treatment plans for patients at Walter Reed Bethesda including patients at the NICoE. The NICoE is a DoD institute dedicated to providing cutting-edge evaluation, treatment planning, research and education for service members and their families dealing with the complex interactions of the signature wounds from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions.

Neurologic Music Therapy uses science-based music techniques to improve cognitive, sensory, and motor function in patients with neurologic diseases such as TBI, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Acclaimed music therapist Mia Maegan Morrow, known for her outstanding work with Gabby Giffords, is a consultant for Operation Homecoming’s music therapy program at the NICoE and Walter Reed Bethesda.

The neurologic music therapy component at the NICoE joins the existing Operation Homecoming creative writing program for wounded warriors which launched in December 2011. Since then, more than 150 active duty military and their family members have taken part in writing workshops in both clinical and non-clinical settings, led by combat veteran and author Ron Capps, with programmatic support from The Writer’s Center. Both activities complement a visual arts therapy program for patients, and all of the creative art therapies are integrated with the NICoE’s unique array of alternative and conventional clinical treatments for patients.

According to Melissa Walker, Creative Arts Therapist and Healing Arts Program Coordinator, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the success stories are endless. She told of how one patient, after creating a visual map that symbolized all his struggles, seemed to unlock the door to healing. Issues he had been struggling with for years found their way to expression and healing. She also noted the difference it makes when the art therapist is treated as part of the team of health providers which is the paradigm used at NICoE.

Operation Homecoming is a partnership between the NEA and the Department of Defense. The Boeing Company has supported Operation Homecoming since its inception in 2004, and continues to support Operation Homecoming programs in non-clinical settings at Walter Reed.

Operation Homecoming was first created in 2004 by the NEA to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. Operation Homecoming is among several programs the NEA has created to bring quality arts programs to the military, veterans, and their families. Other NEA programs for the military have included Blue Star Museums, Great American Voices Military Base Tour; and Shakespeare in American Communities Military Base Tour. The arts and the military is the focus of a recent edition of NEA Arts, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Arts, available at

“Time and time again, troops, their families, military and medical professionals tell us that art can make a difference in the quality of life for troops and their families,” said Rear Admiral Alton L. Stocks, Commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “We are excited to examine those claims through research and practice.”

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


  1. This is wonderful and for the frontal lobe sensory re-structuring. Then there’s the sensory honest input of the hand’s(touch) that can’t be neurologically disrupted as well as other 24/7 aspects of dependable and predictable neurological help. With that finalized research out of the U. of Milano, I’m beginning to understand that the Arts are like a neurological and psychological fail-safe for our human minds. Then there’s that other finalized research about full frontal lobe access with God, that up to now, few would have ever imagined to be true. Rather than persistant apprehension, our actual neurological and psychological resources have been neuro-timing healthy and full minded all along. I sensory honestly applaud the NEA.

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