Janice Lobban: Combat Stress

We are excited to bring you a Creative Insights interview with Janice Lobban, artist and senior art psychotherapist with Combat Stress (UK). Jan has spent nearly two decades working as an art therapy researcher and practitioner in military mental health with Combat Stress, who have provided support to veterans experiencing mental health challenges since the end of WWI. Within this long history of support the arts have been used consistently as a way for individuals to unlock and integrate their complex and often challenging emotional responses to their experiences of service. It is the work of researchers and practitioners such as Jan and her colleagues in the UK and internationally, which is both explaining and highlighting our contemporary need for expanded arts service provision in this arena.

Michelle Saleeba: It has been said that creative expression and arts engagement are fundamentally tied to our sense of vitality and wellbeing. Why do you think this is?

Janice Lobban: Art-making doesn’t come naturally to everyone. When working with veterans in the UK, coming to the session might be the first time participants have picked up a paint brush since school. They might have been told, or have the assumption that, they are no good at art. It can make people feel vulnerable and concerned about getting it wrong and feeling a failure. For some veterans, the bar is set at perfection and if that is not achieved it can be extremely frustrating for them. If veterans are able to overcome these barriers, some can find a powerful and liberating means of self-expression through art-making.

Regularly participants go on to develop their newly discovered artistic skills and interests, and report a greater sense of wellbeing. Indeed, there are an increasing number of research studies that link arts engagement with improved wellbeing. For instance, in the UK, UCL have been at the forefront of evidencing the psychosocial impact of arts and cultural participation on health and wellbeing.