Painting Masks, Reflecting on Gaps: Student Veterans Explore Internal and External Realities During an Art Therapy Group

Maru Serricchio-Joiner, Einat S. Metzl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


An eight-week art therapy group was offered to veteran students at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) in a structured and autonomous environment to support their integration into the civilian world. During week four, participants created masks to explore their identities as veterans, and continued to process them during the following session. This chapter explores the masks created and the process which emerged from the intervention and focuses on differences and similarities in creative responses and verbal processing prompted by this mask-making directive. While most participants, both male and female, expressed a dichotomy between the outside and inside of their mask, the content of their experiences seemed impacted by societal gender expectations. Participants identifying as male communicated a dichotomy between external strength and hardiness, while internally they depicted hurt, anger, and other feelings associated with weakness. At the same time, female participants focused on internal processes expressing feelings of guilt, sadness, and complexity, while the outside of their mask focused on beauty, nature, and bright colors. This chapter therefore reviews the emergent responses to the mask-painting directive, considers the findings within psycho-social pressures for student veterans, and discusses potential applications for deepening the processing of internal/external expectations and the various needs through art therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Expressive Use of Masks across Cultures and Healing Arts
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781040037126
ISBN (Print)9781032430874
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Susan Ridley; individual chapters, the contributors.


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