Clinical Study: “Collaborative Filmmaking as a Therapeutic Tool for Veterans”

Photo credit: Bryan Derballa for AARP.


Patton Veterans Project’s signature I WAS THERE film workshop is part of a clinical study that looks and the therapeutic benefits of filmmaking for military veterans. Last month, the study published an article in Frontiers in Psychology about the work we do in our I WAS THERE film workshops model: Read the full article here



Despite the availability of effective treatments for coping with traumatic experiences, a large percentage of military veterans in need do not seek help. The “I Was There” model is a new filmmaking program which is a creative-expressive tool, developed to enable veterans to reflect on their experiences and jointly create short artistic films. These artistic films articulate, often metaphorically, aspects of the veterans’ service experiences, traumatic events, and reintegration challenges. The current study employed a qualitative methodology to explore participants’ subjective experience of the program. We interviewed 50 participants following the intervention, focusing specifically on their perceptions of the filmmaking process, the aspects they viewed as meaningful, and whether and how the process affected them. Most participants reported their experience as positive and empowering. Three overarching themes emerged as significant in describing the benefits of participation: Gaining a new sense of agency, regaining a sense of affiliation, and processing the trauma. The findings are illustrated and discussed within the context of narrative therapy, as is the potential of video-based therapy, especially regarding non-articulated, sensory traumatic memories, and for the process of (re)construction of the trauma narrative.