Aboutface program helps veterans adjust to civilian life through the expression of art in Contra Costa County

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- People have often said that painting is a form of self-discovery and Aboutface does just that for Contra Costa County veterans.

They are encouraged to participate and express themselves on canvas in order to create an outlet to lessen emotional stress.

Ryan Berg, a Marine Corps veteran and Coordinator of Aboutface, was deployed to Iraq twice.

"I had feelings that are unresolved in my life. There's shame, there's guilt about some of the things that had happened in Iraq and in my life more in generally," says Berg. "I learned a lot about myself, unique things start to come up, things that I haven't seen before."

Many veterans experience some hardships and bumps in the road when transitioning back into civilian life.

Berg notes that very often, civilians don't understand what it was like to be in the military, so veterans end up internalizing a lot of their feelings.

The Aboutface program aims to combat that problem by inviting vets to come together and to have fun.

"It's always like coming home, and seeing my brothers and sisters. We laugh, we have fun, we just poke at each other," explains Air Force veteran Dr. Felisa Gaffney, who is also a psychologist and Co-Facilitator of Aboutface.

"When we come home we come back to feeling. We come home and look for people who relate to us, it's a shared experience," says Berg.

Aboutface is a military term and the program uses it as a play on words for veterans to make a change in direction and move forward.

The program was created in 2015 by the Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County, also known as AC5, who wanted to address the needs of veterans.

"It's an experience that they remember," says Roger Renn, AC5 Managing Director.

The workshop is also open to the families of veterans.

"I engage them and help them communicate with their families and with each other. It is important that they suspend judgement and they delve into what going on within them," says Dr. Gaffney.

The workshop, including painting materials, is free of charge to all veterans and their families.

The two-day workshops are being held at the Concord Vet Center and Diablo Valley College in the spring.

The next five workshops are scheduled for: March 16 and 23, March 30 and April 6, April 13 and 14, April 27 and May 4, May 11 and 8.

If you are interested in participating or volunteering to help with the program more information can be found at the Returning Vets of Diablo Valley's website.
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