Giant Steps Art Therapy: Where the Flowers Went

Friday, October 13, 2017
John Henningson enlisted into the Army just ahead of the inevitable draft in 1968. In John’s words, he was “a reluctant warrior”, but saw no personally acceptable alternative to, “answering my country’s call.” He enlisted to assure an opportunity to get into the Officer Candidate Program and in 1969 was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Artillery Branch. He served in Vietnam from 1970 and 1971. John says, “This was a formative time in my life for many reasons but perhaps, most importantly, I learned to work with and lead others from different religions, social classes, and educational levels under the most difficult of conditions.”
After the military, John earned a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering and spent the next  30+ years cleaning up the environment. Upon retirment in 2004, he began volunteering with various organizations. A few years ago, John began volunteering in the Giant Steps Art Therapy Program at the West Haven Veterans Administration Hospital.
Of his art, John says, “My art is newly born, stimulated by my volunteer activities at the VA. I started with doing a few of the sketches to illustrate my first book, Adirondack Cabin Stories, Fifty Years in the Wilderness 1960 – 2009, which I published along with my siblings. In my second book, A Reluctant Warrior 1968-1974 An Artillery Officer’s Story, many of my first watercolors were remembrances of my time in Vietnam both the good and the bad. I then started writing poetry, which together with watercolors became the concept for my third publication, Where the Flowers Went in Poetry and Pictures.”
“My writing and my graphic art work have been as much a form of therapy for me as it is for the patients I work with at the VA. I remain extremely grateful for that opportunity.” View Mr. Hennington’s work here in our full screen gallery.
The Giant Steps Program is an arts-driven outpatient mental health program for Veterans connected with VA Connecticut Healthcare. The mission of Giant Steps is to promote the wellness and recovery of Veterans by providing opportunities for creative expression, and connection with others so they can rediscover personal strengths, manage stress, build resilience, enhance self- empowerment and find meaning and pleasure in their lives.
Contributor Contact:
Laura Spinelli, MA, ATR, LPC
Director, Giant Steps Program
VA Connecticut HCS
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