ASAP started as a stand-up comedy class for veterans and military personnel in the Hampton Roads area.
ASAP partners with local arts programs to offer different types of classes for a range of skill levels.
"We do classes, workshops, and performances across an array of art forms — stand-up, comedy, improv, storytelling, creative writing, visual arts," Pressler explained. "But it's not art therapy. We're not therapists. We're not trying to fix you. It's really about what you can bring to the table and how we can help accentuate that. We focus on building skills — providing a place for you to hone and share your story and express yourselves and build a community."
For ASAP, continuity is key.
"Everything we offer is ongoing. It's not a class or a workshop and then you're done," said Pressler. "We're seeing statistically significant increases in well-being and resilience and overall quality of life for people who engage in our classes and then continue to engage."
And ASAP offers plenty of opportunities for veterans to do just that. Workshops are hosted every weekend, there are three semesters of classes available, and ASAP hosts 50 to 60 performances a year.
Pressler has found that most of the individuals who participate in ASAP programs return — and are ready to tell their stories.
"I think one of the misunderstandings about the veteran and military community is that they don't have the ability to express emotions like civilians do," Pressler said. "What we find is that people join our programs and are extremely eager to talk about things that maybe they wouldn't in their day to day."
And if they aren't that willing at first, hearing the stories of other veterans can sometimes encourage them to do so.
"One of our writing group members was a 92-year-old WWII veteran. He started writing prolifically — beautiful poetry about his experiences, his best friend, his service in the 4th Marine Division. And it not only helped him open up — the younger service members and veterans around the table seemed to feel like it gave them permission to open up," Pressler said.
Visit ASAP's website to learn more about the programs it offers.