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River Post Traumatic Stress Services’ Handprint Wall Reinstalled

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of artfully mending broken pottery. In this process, pieces of the pottery are joined together and adhered with a mixture of lacquer and powdered gold. It has been known as “The Art of Embracing Imperfection”. Early in 2021, River Hospital’s River Post Traumatic Stress Services (RPTSS), a branch of the River Community Wellness Program, unveiled its own work of kintsugi in the form of the newly reinstalled Handprint Wall.

The Handprint Wall, featuring handprints-in-paint of hundreds of former Program participants since 2013, had been part of RPTSS’s quarters in River Hospital’s former Administrative Office Building. Upon completing the Program, soldiers were invited to contribute a handprint as their signature to the quote, “The Healing of Invisible Wounds Start     Here”. When that building was removed during construction of the hospital’s new Medical Office Building, RPTSS temporarily relocated to the recently refurbished Macsherry Building.

“The Handprint Wall was far too meaningful, to me and to my team, to be left behind,” says Bradley Frey, RPTSS’s Program Director. “Since this Program was started in 2013, over 800 service members have completed it, contributing more than 500 handprints. This 30-foot wall represents the journey of many service members, some of whom are no longer with us. And to save it would require an artful solution.”

That solution was volunteered by local craftsman Andy Greene. Before RPTSS’s building was removed, he devised a way to deconstruct the wall by dividing it into moveable pieces. But the handprints were not arranged in a grid pattern. So as not to disturb any of the handprints, sections would have to be removed in irregular shapes. The carefully carved sections of wall were then stored in the basement of the Macsherry Building for more than one year.

By 2021, RPTSS was comfortably re-settled in River Hospital’s new Medical Office Building - and Mr. Greene went back to work. Meticulously assembling all of the Handprint Wall sections in their new quarters, there remained the need to rejoin the seams between all of the pieces. The answer? When the newly-framed wall was installed Allison Williams, MA, LCAT, ATR-BC, RPTSS’s Creative Arts Therapist, filled in the seams with a gold-colored filler. Appropriately, the new wall closely resembles kintsugi.

River Post Traumatic Stress Services is the only of its kind in the United States. Through collaboration with the Fort Drum Behavioral Health Service, it provides a safe environment for service members suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. River Hospital’s trauma services are also available to community members, who may include first responders, firefighters and law enforcement personnel. The Program offers Cognitive Processing Therapy, Group and Individual Therapy, Peer to Peer Therapy, Imaginal and In Vivo Exposure Therapy as well as Psychiatry and Medication Management.

“By providing service members a safe place for treatment, it becomes easier to talk about their feelings. Enabling service members to open up freely has proved to be a vital part of the therapeutic process,” says Mr. Frey.

Over time, the effects of trauma can disrupt physical and mental health, and may negatively affect relationships, families, careers and other factors important to healing. If you would like to learn more about River Post Traumatic Stress Services, you are invited to call at 315-482-1277.

River Hospital Hand Print Wall photo cropped

Bradley Frey, River Post Traumatic Stress Service’s Director, and Allison Williams, River Post Traumatic Stress Service’s Creative Arts Therapist with the reinstalled Handprint Wall.

By Wayne Strauss, Contributing Writer