Welcome!

Thank you for visiting. Here you will find posts based on my book The Power of Your Other Hand: Unlocking creativity and inner wisdom through the right side of your brain (new edition, 2019 Conari Press), featuring excerpts from the book, success stories from readers and students, my own experiences, and drawing and writing prompts using this technique. Enjoy!
~Lucia Capacchione, Phd, ATR

Friday, November 15, 2019

Scribbling it Out to Save a Marriage

When I was enrolled in a gradate program through Goddard College becoming an art therapist, a close friend of mine was setting up her private practice as a Marriage and Family Counselor. Jane and I had met through Tom Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training programs, as we were both teaching Gordon’s methods for improving communication in families. My background had been Child Development, Jane’s had been raising six children. 

Jane attended one of my first "practice" workshops in which I presented the idea of drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand. These workshop activities eventually became part of my master’s thesis. Jane readily took to the idea of scribbling her stress and powerful emotions out onto paper. She also kept a journal and started creating deeply felt art work of her dreams. She shared these drawings with me along with writing and dialogues with dream images. 

What really got my attention were the pages and pages of graffiti-like scribbles (with 4 letter words and all) that she said allowed her to dump her anger, frustration and stress out onto paper instead of carrying it around in her body or throwing it at someone else.

I also knew her husband, Jack, who was a Parent Effectiveness trainer as well. At a party all attended, Jack pulled me aside to thank me.

"What for? “I said."

"Why, for saving my marriage, of course."

"What do you mean, Jack? How on earth did I save your marriage?" 

"Well, you know we’ve been married for many years and we’ve raised six kids together. For a long time Jane used me as target practice. If she was pissed off about something, I got the heat. If she was frustrated, she took it out on me. Franky, I was ready to bail out of the marriage." 

"I can understand that you’d be pretty put off by that," I replied. "But, I don’t understand how I saved your marriage." 

Jack explained. "Well, when Jane started coming to your workshops and using your method of scribbling her feelings out with her other hand, all of that stopped. I mean, I was amazed. The blaming and dumping stopped. I was really surprised. I mean, it just stopped."

He laughed. "Sure, she kept on name-calling and dumping, but it went into her journal instead of being aimed at me. She showed me some of her journal pages after she'd been doing this for awhile. Pages and pages full of crayon scribbling in black."

Jane had shown me, in confidence, some of these scribbles, or what I termed Graffiti art, so I knew exactly what Jack was talking about. 

He continued, "And, yeah, she called me every name in the book, and then some. But she did it on paper. She put it in a safe place, in her journal. Which as you know, is confidential and very private. She only shares certain things with me." 

He thought for a moment and then added. "You know, Jane learned to own her own feelings using this method, instead of making me responsible for everything she felt. You know, as if her feelings were my fault."

Jack gave me a big grin. "So, do you see, Lucia? I have you to thank for saving my marriage. What a relief to walk into the house and know that I’m not going to get yelled at or dumped on." 

That was when I realized how powerful the non-dominant hand was for expressing explosive feelings. It not only relieved stress for the person who had the feelings, it calmed the waters. It let off steam in a safe place. This is important in relationships where strong emotions can do damage by being dumped out impulsively in words of blame and recrimination. 

Contrary to the old saying about "words can never hurt me," words can and DO hurt. They can leave lasting emotional scars and wounds that damage or destroy relationships. We know this from the phenomenon of bullying, which has become an epidemic in our society and in our schools. 

So next time you want to yell at someone, indulge in name-calling or blaming, try scribbling it out on paper. Use your non-dominant hand and a crayon. The bigger the crayon the better. Or use a big fat marker. Let the paper have it. Do your name-calling and blaming in writing. The words may be barely legible, but that’s okay. Think of it as graffiti. You’ll feel better. You’ll own your own feelings without using someone else "for target practice," as Jack put it so perfectly.

With relationship issues it is also important to draw images of the dynamic within oneself. Especially the interaction of the male and female within. Jane did just that in her journal, drawing various images of how the masculine and feminine aspects of herself were relating to each other. In one drawing a "pot" emerged, with two faces pointed in opposite directions. 
She also created a classic yin yang symbol, the traditional Chinese image for balance of the masculine and feminine energies.

Artwork by Jane Murphy shown here appears in the new color edition of The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself, 35th Anniversary Edition, Ohio University/Swallow Press 2015.

Lucia

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Hold the Moments: a book is born with help from the non-dominant hand

This post was contributed by Lisa Brown, M.A., CJEA Instructor & Visioning® Coach. Lisa is also an artist and published author.

Hold the Moments: a book is born with help from the non-dominant hand

Lisa teaching a workshop
I am an art teacher working with all ages. I have been teaching children for over 35 years. Most of my students come after school during the school year and start studying with me at age 9. They often continue until high school. Because they return each year, I have gathered ideas for hundreds of art projects for working with children and youth and have constantly dreamed up new ones. Once in a while I discovered something that turned out to be spectacular, not for me but for what the children produced from their imagination.

I had taken pictures of student work along the way and, as I entered the Creative Journal Expressive Arts certification training, I realized one of my dreams was to create a book of the projects I had created. I began to see that parents and grandparents didn’t quite know how to entertain children without the use of a screen machine. I wanted to help them with easy to do, fun projects that would bring joy to grandparents, parents, and children.

Around the same time, one of my son’s friends came by and said she loved a book she had as a child in which she kept the names of her friends, of places she liked to go, etc. I then realized that this concept could be added to my art project ideas as a way to save those experiences that adults shared with their children and grandchildren. I was also thinking about those relatives who live far away and therefore don’t have many opportunities to be with children in their families. If they kept a journal, took pictures, or wrote in the journal about the experiences they did have together and with whom, they would have those memories forever. (I have to say the thought of keeping a journal certainly coincided with my CJEA training where we were trained in the practice of Creative Journaling.)

I was getting this all together when my life got rocked up-side-down due to my young son succumbing to drug addiction. This put the book project on hold and it was years of struggling for the whole family. We all struggled with his addiction and in the end, my son overdosed. After some time and deep grieving, I began to put the final draft together.

Each time I got stuck, the way I unblocked was to dialogue with both hands to find my answers. I never would have finished the book without Lucia’s methods for opening up creativity and her techniques for breaking through creative blocks. It was finally happening. Now, I just had to find a title. Once again, I looked inward to find the wisdom of my other hand and what do you know, here’s what she said. “Hold the Moments: Creative Experiences in Parenting.”

And that was perfect! Thank you Lucia!

Finally, my dream came true and I published the book.

Lisa Brown
Regional Coordinator for CJEA
art-as-therapy.com
gardens-of-hope.net
lisa@art-as-therapy.com
Hold the Moments: Creative Experiences in Parenting
Book information appears on the front page of art-as-therapy.com.

-----

Lucia

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Enter the Dragon: Inner Critic as Sparring Partner

Where there’s a creative muse, there is a dragon lurking right behind. Whenever I am inspired, feel the urge to create, or try something new in some area of my life, then boom! Fear and doubt follow right behind. My brain starts chattering: “I can’t do this. What makes me think I can succeed? I’ll look stupid and others will laugh at me or at what I create. I’ll just fail, so why bother. This is a waste of time. Stop now.” That is the recipe for a creative block of any kind.

I’ve lived my life chasing after new ideas, and making most of them a reality. As a pioneer in the arts, education and psychology, I’ve had to take on the dragon of inner criticism and self-doubt on a regular basis. Whether I am making art, writing a book, creating a new school curriculum, or starting a new business project, I’ve learned that the dragon of inner criticism and self-doubt are inevitable. Taking on the dragon has become a way of life, a necessary part of the game. It is a form of mental martial arts. Fortunately, I found my Inner Bruce Lee years ago. My dragon has become my ally.

The martial arts metaphor came to me in a journaling session. I was curious as to why we needed the dragon of self-put-downs when engaging with novel ideas and new directions. It had become clear that this was an inevitable part of the creative process. But why? I turned to my non-dominant hand for the answer. My inner guide (writing with my left hand) told me that my Inner Critic is my “sparring partner,” just as boxers have a sparring partner who prepares them for the ring. That is how they get tested and toughened up.

Like sports, and like Life, the Creative Process is not all sweetness and light. Brilliant ideas and inspiration are not enough. The creative process is not for the faint of heart. Giving birth to the new is not for sissies. There will be labor pains. There will be gut punches. But most of them are coming from our own critical mind.

If we understand how the Inner Critic operates as a character assassin, destroying our self-worth with negative thoughts, we can combat it. If not, it can obliterate our creative urges, block our creativity and contribute to depression and low energy. In my private practice as an art therapist, I’ve found that creative blocks can cause depression and anxiety. Not the other way around, as is commonly believed. Once the blocks are removed, using my method of inner martial arts through journaling, the depression and anxiety disappear.

By standing up for ourselves and defending our creative urges against the dragon of self-criticism, we open the floodgates to huge amounts energy. Our natural life force moves us naturally into the flow of the creative process. This is our birthright. Like little children, we regain our inborn ability to experiment, and we explore new territory within ourselves and out in the world. Our souls guide us with a message of light and new possibilities. We gain the strength to grow and express our true Creative Self. We take the risk of being our authentic selves and not settling for less.

The Dragon’s Agenda

In the creative process, the dragon’s agenda is the opposite of adventure and new growth. It follows left-brain rules, colors inside the lines, and sticks with the same-old-same-old. It describes our new ideas with words like strange, crazy and too “out there.” It hypnotizes us into blindly believing its judgments. Creativity is dangerous territory. Do NOT venture forth into places others have not gone before. Forget about pioneering anything. Innovation has no place in a tidy, safe little world. It goes nuts at the thought of breaking new ground and predicts the worst possible disasters. If we veer off the trodden path by flirting with the idea of an entirely new career, a different lifestyle, or starting a new business or hobby, it warns of danger at every turn.

The tricky part is that this dragon may start out sounding benevolent, like a well-meaning friend, a protector who has our own best interests at heart. It says stuff like: Things are fine the way they are. Why rock the boat? I’m just trying to protect you from being hurt. Just stay with the tried and true. Taking risks is too dangerous. All kinds of terrible things could happen. I’m only saying these things for your own good.

But if we persist in following our heart and our creative urges, this self-styled “friend” becomes our “foe”. It resorts to bullying, name-calling and doomsday prophecies. Who do you think you are anyway, thinking you can pull this off? You’re not smart enough. You’re too old (or too young). You don’t have enough talent or education or experience (or whatever). You’ll fail and be disappointed. You don’t have what it takes to do what you dream of. You will look stupid. Others will laugh at you. Worse yet, you will be rejected. If that doesn’t discourage you from moving ahead, it often returns to posing as your friend. I’m only saying these things for your own good. 

If we let the dragon of self-criticism control us, our lives shrink and we are severely diminished. The dragon will suck all the juice out of our existence. We stagnate, risk being depressed or even getting ill. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can literally unmask the dragon of self-criticism and inner bullying and get to the other side of self-doubt and paralyzing fear.

Mask making and journaling with the dragon

Materials: paper plate (plain white) or large brown shopping bag (big enough to fit over your head). Fat markers or crayons. Optional: scissors, glue, colored paper. Your personal journal or 8 ½ X 11 bond paper, pen and markers.

Make a mask depicting the face of your own personal Inner Critic dragon. Portray the character behind the voice that puts you down and discourages you from trying anything new or creative. You can draw it with your non-dominant hand or make a collage with colored paper or both. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Only YOUR way. Make this mask as fierce as you can. This is your sparring partner that tries to stop you from being creative, from trying new things, from venturing forward in life. Enjoy creating this mask.

Put your dragon mask on and look in the mirror for a few minutes. Be aware of how you feel being looked at by the face of your inner dragon.

In your journal or on bond paper, using your dominant hand let your dragon mask talk. What critical things does it say to you? How does it stop you from being creative in life? How does it block you from following your heart’s desire? Let it talk.

With your non-dominant hand, let your Creative Self talk. How does it want to be creative, adventurous and innovative in your life? Is it a new project? A different direction in life? A hobby you are drawn to? A new travel adventure? Let it say what it wants.

With your dominant hand, let your Inner Warrior speak on behalf of the Creative Self. What will your warrior do to help you be more creative, adventurous and innovative in life? How will it help you from letting the Critic dragon get in your way? You may even want to draw a picture of your Inner Warrior. Maybe it looks like a favorite sports star, warrior or superhero, like Bruce Lee, Serena Williams, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.

For detailed information and procedures for making more elaborate masks, see my book The Art of Emotional Healing (Shambhala 2006), chapter 9 – Facing Ourselves: Mask Making and Inner Dialogues. For more on breaking through creative blocks, see The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019), Chapter 3.

Lucia

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Mapping Your Ideal Career: Guidance From Your Other Hand

As an art and expressive arts therapist, I did career work for years with private clients who needed help with career and life direction. Some of them had done Inner Child work with me and benefited greatly. They had healed many of the wounds of childhood and removed blocks to listening to their true heart’s desire. They had learned how to confront their Inner Bully, the self-critical thoughts in their own mind that had inflicted low energy and sometimes depression. Armed with these tools, they were ready to move on with their lives.

The first step was to listen to their true heart’s desire about the life and career they truly wanted. I included those exercises in Chapter 3 of The Power of Your Other Hand. These journal prompts involve answering back to the Critic and standing up on behalf of one’s heart’s desire in the face of blocks such as perfectionism, pessimism, self-doubt, and pressure from within to perform.

I later taught them the Visioning® process, which is the focus of my book: Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams (Tarcher/Putnam 2000). This involves creating a collage of one’s true heart’s desire, often called a vision board. This is followed by journaling with inner blocks and dialoguing with images in the collage using the non-dominant hand to allow the pictures to speak.

In using the Visioning® process in job and career development we start with a focus phrase that represents the true heart’s desire. It might be something like “getting paid to do what I love to do,” “being creative and enjoying my work,” or “loving what I do, doing what I love.” This focus phrase becomes the title of the collage or vision board and provides the hook on which picture selections are made. In finding images and words in magazines, or in one’s own photo collection, the question we ask is “does it illustrate my focus phrase?” If not, it gets tossed or saved for another collage.

What makes the Visioning® process different from techniques like “treasure mapping” or simply making a vision board is the journaling. We dialogue with the images using the non-dominant hand to speak for people, places and objects that appear in the collage. In right-hand left-hand interviews the dominant hand asks questions and the non-dominant hand answers for whichever image is being focused on. The levels of meaning that emerge from these images are nothing short of amazing. My clients and students report that they had no idea what the true meaning of these images were in their lives until they began giving them a voice through journaling. Many have commented that is was a lot like doing dream work because they were exploring areas of their creative unconsciousness that they were not in touch with before. For example, dialoguing with the image of a personal hero often brings deep inner guidance and encouragement for the individual embarking on a new career direction or project. People’s lives are often transformed in the process of engaging with their collages through journaling with their non-dominant hand.

This process has worked effectively in corporate and organizational settings such as schools, business, and industry. For example, in 1983 I was hired to do career development work for Walt Disney Imagineering, the division responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks and retail stores. I was asked to work with the creative division in the company where hundreds had been laid off after Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland were completed. The company brought in outplacement consultants to assist these recently terminated employees with career development and job finding skills.

In my work with these creative individuals, I suggested the idea of creating vision boards. The technique attracted them and was helpful in their career transition. Many of them started new businesses or went into entirely new fields of endeavor.

After 8 months of doing outplacement work I proposed an "in placement career development program" for the survivors of this traumatic experience. I was hired to offer weekly sessions and one-on-one consulting with managers and staff. My program lasted for 10 years in which we constantly created new programs for changing needs. Our goal was to maximize creativity, and I introduced Visioning® and dialoguing with the non-dominant hand in many workshops for managers and staff. The division not only survived layoffs, but also built back up to several thousand employees in 10 years. Imagineering came back to life, built EuroDisneyland and California Adventure at the Anaheim Disneyland, and created the Disney retail stores during my time there.

The woman who brought me into Disney, the late Peggy Val Pelt, and I worked together the whole time at Imagineering to create programs that were relevant for each stage of new growth after the 1982-83 lay-offs. We trained managers and oriented new hires to the work and culture of Imagineering. We went on to co-author Putting Your Talent to Work: Identifying, Cultivating and Marketing Your Natural Talents (HCI, 1998) in which I first introduced the Visioning® technique. I went on to author Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams, and more recently 2 workbooks: The Talent Workbook and Talent2Work for youth (field tested in our local middle and high school).

Please visit VisioningCoach.org for more information on the Visioning® process, and a list of trained, certified coaches using my methods.Visioning® Coach Training is a graduate course open only to Certified Creative Journal Expressive Arts Instructors.

Lucia

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Cancer, Faith, and Kindergarten Art: Pat Clark’s Journey Through Cancer

In August of 2015, my dear friend and colleague in our Creative Journal Expressive Arts community, was diagnosed with stage four cancer (lymphoma). When I heard the news I was in shock. I’d lost a friend to lymphoma years before and knew her condition was considered incurable. But Pat is a warrior woman and she took cancer on with all the tools she had: her faith in God, her two-handed journal techniques from CJEA training, a pile of old faded construction paper, scissors and glue. She also had a wonderful support system in family and friends and treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, where she lives.

After a career in broadcast journalism, raising a family, and serving as a Presbyterian minister for over two decades, Pat entered a new chapter in her life. She embarked on a journey through cancer leading to her book, Feeling the Shift: Cancer, Faith, and Kindergarten Art.

Her deeply moving story of a courageous, creative and faith-filled approach to this dreaded disease started in her own journal and expanded as entries in an online support community for people dealing with cancer. I was honored to be part of her support team at Caring Bridge, and was moved by each posting, which included writings and drawings done with her non-dominant hand and bold, child-like collages expressing her feelings and challenges with cancer and chemotherapy. We were allowed to witness what it’s like to live with cancer, from the inside out.

Like most people, Pat felt she was no artist. As she says in her book, “My artistic skills stopped developing after I marched out of preschool at 4 years of age because a teacher criticized my choice of colors for an art project.” It’s a too-familiar story of how we get cheated out of our natural birthright as inherently expressive, creative beings. While still working as a minister Pat had done expressive arts training with me, which she admits changed her life. She knew the power of “getting it all out on paper” and showed others how to do that. It became another form of her ministry. She helped others give themselves permission to express their innermost feelings and wishes. Yet Pat still had an Art Critic living in her own head. As she says in her book, “The work is crude, but gentle, and if I can silence the powerful inner critic that lives within me, it becomes valuable and healing.”

Drawing of body with cancer
She had taken classes with Lisa Brown, an accomplished collage artist, art teacher and instructor of Creative Journal Expressive Arts methods. Pat couldn’t go out to buy art materials due to her immune system being severely compromised, so she made do with old faded construction paper lying around the house, left overs from her days of raising young children.

About her Tree of Life collage, Pat wrote that she was “surrounded by love on all sides, held securely and protected where the loving God alone is enough, my source and my strength.” She later described this collage to me as a form of prayer. Her faith and her art were coming together. She knew then that God was at work in her behalf and the energy had shifted within her body. God worked through her friends as well. Art paper started appearing at her door and in her mail box. She began receiving the supplies she needed to continue her journaling and "kindergarten art."

Tree of Life collage
Pat underwent chemotherapy at MD Anderson in Houston, where she lives, enduring all the challenges, physical pain, and emotions that such an ordeal brings with it. On the Caring Bridge posts (and later in her book), she gave us an inside glimpse of what it’s like to be diagnosed and treated for a condition that is considered terminal. In facing death, Pat’s two-handed journaling, her “kindergarten art” and her connection with God all combined to teach her a lesson about life: How to live in the eye of the hurricane and not be swept away by it. How to not be a victim, but to find serenity and inner peace in the midst of chaos.

Eye of the Hurricane
I personally felt the shift when Pat shared on Caring Bridge a written dialogue with her Inner Critic. As I read her non-dominant hand confrontation with the voice of self-put downs, I literally felt a shift in my gut. It was physical, tangible. The words came to me: There it is. Pat just beat cancer. She stood up to the critic. She’s not taking this lying down. I was so sure of it that I wrote to Pat and shared my reaction to her post. She later told me she was really shaken after doing that dialogue.

She did, indeed, beat cancer. However, it came back a couple of years later. This time cancer had a lesson to teach her about boundaries, saying Yes to herself and No to others. She entered chemotherapy again and resumed her journal work. Her journaling revealed that she had gone back to life as usual after the first round of treatment, and had abandoned her creative expression. She had to learn to say No to things that interfered with her inner life, creative self and inner knowing. The message was that she could not live without creative expression. Pat got the message.

She asserted herself with doctors, following her gut and body wisdom, and discontinued the second round of treatment. In the face of everyone else’s opinions, professionals and family alike, she persisted in listening to her inner guidance. Her first oncologist had himself died of cancer. The second oncologist informed her that there was no research showing what would happen if a second round of chemo was discontinued. She stood strong. “Then I’ll be the first case study,” she told him. That was two years ago and Pat is cancer-free. She continues her inner work through journaling, prayer and self-care. And she has a new ministry: a truly precious guide to cancer from the inside out in the form of her book.

For those of us who have lost a loved one to cancer or any terminal illness, or anyone diagnosed with one, this book is a treasure. Pat succeeded in what she set out to do. She shows us how to find peace and serenity in the eye of the hurricane. And, hey, come to think of it. You don’t have to have cancer to need this book. We all face hurricanes of confusion, doubt, chaos in daily life. Thank you, Pat, for this powerful road map.

Lucia

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Benjamin Franklin on the “Other Hand”

While on a recent book tour in Silicon Valley, I spoke at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, hosted by Kensington Place of Redwood City Memory Care. As I left the building I encountered a life size statue of Franklin on a bench near the entrance. My friends took a photo of me “meeting” Ben. He had a lot to say about the “other hand.” You’ll find out how he felt about the non-dominant hand later in this post.

In Chapter 2 of The Power of Your Other Hand, entitled “The Upper Hand and the Other Hand,” I discuss the historical prejudice against the left and everything associated with it. This prejudice of the majority (“righties”) against the minority (“lefties”) runs throughout history. In fact every language, except Hopi and Classical Chinese, have words for left that also mean clumsy, handicapped, weak, paralyzed, left-over, stupid, crooked, malicious, deceitful, evil, etc. You get the idea. Gauche means left in French, but English-speaking folks use it as a put-down. Gawky, meaning awkward, even looks like a mispronunciation of the word gauche. In Italian, sinistra means left. Change a letter or two and it becomes sinister in English. Mancini, another Italian word for left, is also used to mean maimed, defective, stupid.

The acquisition of literacy all over the world has been accompanied by the mandate that “the right hand is the correct hand for writing.” That was true in our American schools at one time, but over the years things have changed. Generally, lefties are allowed to be lefties. What happens at home is another matter. Some parents might still be imposing right-handedness, especially if they came here from a culture that is prejudiced again the left hand.

Of course technology has brought ambidexterity to writing. We all “write” with both hands — on computer keyboards. “Thumb writing” for texting is another whole topic I won’t go into, but notice that people do use both thumbs.

I began introducing people to their unschooled, non-writing hand in 1974 when I was in graduate school researching and developing my methods. Over the years I have met fewer and fewer people who are “switch-overs” (lefties forced to become right-handed for writing and drawing). Now they are usually over 70 and went to school when kids got ridiculed, slapped, or punished in some way for the audacity of writing with their natural (left) hand. There is a section in The Power of Your Other Hand on switchovers and the emotional damage this practice caused. Based on my research into more recent science on the physiology of trauma, I now believe being forcibly switched over caused severe neurological damage as well.

While dining with a man from India recently, I was told that children there must do their school work with their right hands. Left-handedness is not acceptable when it comes to writing or drawing. I’ve heard this about a lot of other countries as well, especially in Asia and the Middle East. Over the years, students and workshop attendees have told me they were made fun of, beaten, given a dunce hat to wear, had their left hand tied to the desk chair, and in the worst case, one had the left hand broken by a teacher. This happened in Pearl Harbor in a military school during WW2. The boy, now a man, held his hand out to show me the scars. The teacher slammed his hand with a wooden 2 x 4 because he persisted in writing with his left hand. I gasped! But he then grinned and told me the rest of the story. Fortunately, when this military family returned to the US mainland, his new teacher allowed him to use his natural hand. He actually chuckled while telling me that he had maintained his left-handedness for writing throughout his life in spite of this early injury to body and soul.

Benjamin Franklin

If you think this topic of the prejudice against the left hand is a new one, think again. Benjamin Franklin, statesman, philosopher, author and inventor was a proponent of education for both hands. As a believer in training for ambidexterity, including writing with both hands, here’s a letter he penned, that appears in Chapter 2 of The Power of You Other Hand. It was written on behalf of his “other hand.”

A Petition To Those Who Have The Superintendency of Education

I address myself to all the friends of youth, and conjure them to direct their compassionate regard to my unhappy fate, in order to remove the prejudices of which I am the victim. There are twin sisters of us; and the eyes of man do not more resemble, nor are capable of being on better terms with each other than my sister and myself, were it not for the partiality of our parents, who made the most injurious distinction between us.


From my infancy I have been led to consider my sister as a being of more educated rank. I was suffered to grow up without the least instruction, while nothing was spared in her education. She had masters to teach her writing, drawing, music, and other accomplishments, but if by chance I touched a pencil, a pen, or needle I was bitterly rebuked; and more than once I have been beaten for being awkward and wanting a graceful manner.

Must not the regret of our parents be excessive, at having placed so great a difference between sisters who are so perfectly equal? Alas! We must perish from distress; for it would not be in my power even to scrawl a suppliant petition for relief…

Condescend, sir, to make my parents sensible of the injustice of an exclusive tenderness, and of the necessity of distributing their care and affection among all their children equally. I am, with profound respect, Sirs,
Your obedient servant,
THE LEFT HAND
-----

Lucia

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Non-Dominant Hand as a Guide Through Grief

This week's guest blogger is Claire Perkins — an artist, author, and expressive arts coach. During an experience of deep grief, Claire discovered the healing and awakening power of expressive art and journaling, which she now brings to her clients. Trained in the Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) method, Transformational Life Coaching, Active Dreaming and SoulCollage®, she gently guides people to deeper self awareness, inner healing and awakening with a juicy mix of simple expressive art, dream work and journaling.

The Non-Dominant Hand as a Guide Through Grief

Fifteen years ago, after years of struggling with his addiction, my eldest son died of an accidental overdose at age 26. My worst nightmare had come to pass. It was a grief unlike anything I'd ever experienced.

Yet by some stroke of divine order, six months prior to Cameron's death, I had begun studying with Lucia Capacchione and learning, among other things, the power of drawing and journaling with my non-dominant hand. Who knew that my own left hand would become so instrumental in leading me through grief into healing?

About a week before Cameron died, I had an ominous dream in which a giant wave - like a tsunami - came crashing up through city streets and skyscrapers. In a room in one of the buildings, I could see a small, frightened boy. When I awoke from this dream, I sensed it had something to do with my son and it left me feeling uneasy. I had often thought of him as drowning - drowning in an ocean of unhappiness, anger and addiction. I titled the dream, "The Big Wave."

I spent some time creating a collage of this dream. It was almost as if the dream was continuing on paper. I filled a poster-sized sheet of paper with many kinds of water images and images of small children. At the bottom right, I placed images of two women, perhaps aspects of myself, observing this watery scene.

When I learned of Cameron's death a week later, I knew that the Big Wave had finally claimed him. He had drowned in the sea of his addiction.

I turned to the collage I'd created from my dream seeking wisdom, guidance and healing as the tsunami of grief crashing over me threatened to drown me as well.

I began a two-handed dialoguing process and, over a few days time, spoke with every image in the collage by asking questions with my dominant hand and allowing the images to answer through my non-dominant hand.

Each and every image had powerful wisdom and healing to share with me, and all the dialogues are included in my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society (https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Water-Leaf-Society/dp/0982105614/). But perhaps the most surprising conversation of all was the one I had with the surfer at the top left of my collage.

Dominant Hand (DH): Hello Surfer - who are you?

Non-Dominant Hand (NDH): It's me, Mom. Look at me - I'm riding the wave! It's wild and dangerous and so much fun! Mom, I'm happy. It's all good. I had a short ride, but what a rush!

DH: So you feel good then? Happy? Satisfied?

NDH: Mom, I didn't drown. Not like you think. I just grabbed a board and hung on for a wild and crazy ride. Don't cry, Mom - please? That makes me sad.

DH: I'm sorry to cry, but I'll miss you. I didn't think of your life as a lot of fun. I thought you were hurting and in pain.

NDH: But it was all part of the ride. Really. It's ok. I'm free. I'm happy. I'm moving on.

DH: What is it that I can do for you?

NDH: You've done it all, Mom. Now it's my turn to do for you.

DH: What gift or wisdom do you bring to me?

NDH: Freedom. Live your life, Mom. Ride your own wave. I love you.


~~~

Sometimes as I write with my non-dominant hand, I wonder where the words are coming from. But in this instance there was no doubt in my mind that it was truly Cameron who was speaking to me, urging me to see his life and death differently, urging me to live my own life fully in spite of this loss.

While the dialogues with the images in my Big Wave collage often evoked a flood of tears, I felt safe and protected somehow. Every voice seemed to encourage me to see that love was all that mattered and all that was real. That love would heal all wounds. That love never dies.

When the woman at the bottom right, the one with her eyes closed, said through the non-dominant hand that she felt as though the weight of this loss would crush her and that she would drown in her tears, the other woman had a different point of view.

DH: And so, finally, to you - the woman with her eyes wide open. Who are you?

NDH: I am you.

DH: And how do you feel?

NDH: So many things. Joy one moment and sorrow the next. But look at me - I'm dressed for swimming. We will keep our eyes wide open even when we are immersed in the sea. It will never overwhelm us. We are safe.

DH: And what can I do for you?

NDH: You are doing it. Living. Loving. Feeling. Growing. This is why we are here.

DH: I know this is true. What gift or wisdom do you bring to me?

NDH: We shall see, Claire. We shall see . . .


~~~

During the six months prior to Cameron's death, I had been learning to use all the healing tools and processes of Lucia Capacchione's Creative Journal Expressive Arts, including listening to the wisdom of my "other" hand. And for that I am truly grateful.

While dialoguing with the images in my Big Wave collage was only the first step in a very long journey through grief into healing, my non-dominant hand would continue to lead the way.

Claire Perkins, CJEA

Web: www.claireperkins.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ClairePerkinsArtAndSoul/
Email: claire@claireperkins.com
Books:
The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief
(https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Water-Leaf-Society/dp/0982105614/)
Fallen: The Adventures of a Deep Water Leaf
(https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Adventures-Deep-Water-Leaf/dp/0982105622/)

-----

Lucia

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Zenga Art from the Non-Dominant Hand


Almost twenty years after discovering the power of the non-dominant hand to heal, open up channels of creativity and unlock inner wisdom, I made another amazing discovery. One day while painting with watercolors, my “other hand” (the hand I don’t normally write with), picked up a brush and began making forms and “characters” that loosely resembled what I had seen in Japanese and Chinese art. A long-time admirer of traditional Asian art and collector of antique and vintage kimono, I recognized the painted circle (called enso) from exhibits of Asian art I had seen.

At the time these circles began flowing out of my brush, I knew next to nothing about the Zenga tradition of art. I only knew what I had seen and liked on scrolls and mounted paintings in museums and at shops in New Chinatown and Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles where I spent my early years. In fact, I was using one of the Japanese brushes I’d had since 5th or 6th grade when I purchased one for painting a large fabric banner in grammar school. I loved the flexibility of these brushes that seemed like many brushes in one. I could paint a large solid area or draw by making medium or thin lines with the round pointed tip. It all depended on how much paint was on the brush, how much pressure was applied and how the brush was held.

As I painted these circles with my non-dominant hand, calligraphic forms started to appear out of nowhere. How curious, I thought. These look like Japanese and Chinese characters I’ve seen on scrolls. I have no idea how my hand is doing this, and I sure don’t know what they say, if anything. It was effortless, fun and super relaxing, so I continued. I ended up creating a series of these multi-colored “faux Asian calligraphy” paintings. A few had enso circles in them, most of them were filled with calligraphy formed from the top down and often starting on the right hand top corner of the painting. I had never had instructions in Asian calligraphy techniques, yet my non-dominant hand knew what to do. Sometimes I gave them poetic titles that came as naturally and effortlessly as the paintings had. These titles sounded like fragments of zen sayings. I had no idea where any of this came from.

After awhile I got into the practice of playing recorded music for Zen Meditation while I painted. At those times it felt as if I were channeling a past life as an Asian monk. Although I began studying art at age 13 and had a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, I’d never taken a class in Asian art nor ever visited an Asian country. Yet here I was, immersed in a clearly meditative process using brushes from a far away land. Around that time, I saw an ad for an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art entitled: “Zenga: Brushstrokes to Enlightenment.” The name of the show hit me like a thunderbolt. I knew I had to see it as soon as possible. Walking around the Museum’s Asian Pavilion, I was awe struck by what I saw. The walls were filled with traditional pieces from an art form that was all about meditation, mindfulness, and being in the present. Enso circles and other drawings, as well as calligraphy, seemed to flow from the very soul of the artists. The show was stunning and inspired me to continue.

I learned that, traditionally, these simple circles were created with Japanese brushes and ink, and usually accompanied by calligraphy featuring phrases or verses from Zen teaching. Enso art is a direct expression of the mind of the artist who creates it. I also knew from my studies of Swiss Psychologist, C.G. Jung, that circles have deep significance as the archetype of wholeness. He wrote about the circular form of the uroboros, the serpent eating its own tail, symbolizing the continuous cycle of life and death. What fascinated me most was the spontaneous quality of the work, considering that the artists received rigorous training by Zen masters and were themselves Zen masters. As an artist and art therapist, I resonated deeply with the idea of finding enlightenment through art.

For a few years after discovering this spontaneous Asian style art through my non-dominant hand, I continued painting and exhibiting these works throughout Los Angeles and California's central coast. At one exhibit, a Japanese man and I struck up a conversation. I laughed and acknowledged that my work was "faux calligraphy" inspired by Asian art. He laughed and pointed out that there actually were some real kanji characters in my art, but they didn't add up to anything. It would be like doing a painting with a made-up alphabet and throwing a few real letters into the mix for decorative purposes only.

At the same time I was painting and exhibiting these Asian inspired paintings, I also created collages and watercolor landscapes. However, it was the process of painting with Asian brushes in my non-dominant hand that brought me the most relaxation and inner peace. As in the Zenga tradition, the art was a byproduct of my state of mind and my spontaneous interaction with the brush, the paint or ink, and the paper. I was leading a very busy life at the time, traveling all over the world, writing books and leading workshops. Meditation through the brush became my refuge and a welcomed stress reduction practice.

In the last few months, almost three decades after my original discovery of Zenga art, I have had the opportunity to take classes with masters of Chinese brush painting and calligraphy. These teachers appeared out of nowhere, just like my first discoveries of what happened spontaneously when I put an Asian brush in my “other hand.” Exploring brushes, Chinese papers, calligraphy forms and traditional techniques has been a joy. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Lucia

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www.luciac.com
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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sleep on it: Tapping the Creative Subconscious through Your “Other Hand”


“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” -Thomas Edison

When we have to make an important decision, we often use the term, “I’ll sleep on it.” That phrase implies that something will come to us in the sleep state. We’ll wake up with “the answer.” Should I accept this job? Should I move to that house? Should I invest in this business?

History is full of inventions and discoveries that happened in the sleep state. Whether they are “requested,” as Edison recommends, or not, we know that the sleep state gives rise to dreams, images, guidance and even groundbreaking discoveries. Kekule’s discovery of the benzene ring in chemistry (think gasoline) is only one example of a scientific breakthrough that came forth in the sleep state. He literally dreamed the pattern that showed him the formula. It’s no wonder. The visual nature of dreams lends itself to the right-brain process of imagery and pattern recognition.

Dreaming taps heavily into right-brain experiencing. All the functions that the right brain excels in are active in the dream state. Dreams are visual and sometimes very physical (as in dreams of falling, flying, drowning). We don’t even need to know how to do some of the things we do in dreams. I dreamt of skiing once, although I had never skied and I still haven’t. But I can describe to you exactly how it feels to ski down a slope covered with new fallen snow. I did it in a dream.

We all know how emotional dreams can be, especially nightmares. We might wake up shaking with fear after a scary dream, weeping after a sad one, or overjoyed by a blissful dream. We wake up feeling that it “really” happened. A bad dream can cause us to “wake up on the wrong side of the bed" in the morning. We all know what that old saying means. If we don’t recall the dream, we may be grumpy all day and not know why.

Some dreams tap into our natural intuitive abilities to the point of being psychic previews of what's to come. We all have had or heard about “precognitive dreams.” Something the dreamer could not possibly have known on the conscious level actually happens in real life. I once dreamed a doctor of mine was at a party given in her honor and was threatened with death by shadowy figures trying to crash the party. I went to the door and told them to go away and they did. Then she appeared with her long silver hair cut very short. Her appearance surprised me. She had always had long hair worn in a bun and said she would never cut it short. Three days later a mutual friend called to tell me the Doctor had a stroke while out of town on vacation with friends on the weekend. The doctors had to cut her hair for doing brain tests. When I saw her a few days later I knew in advance exactly what her new haircut looked like. I’d seen it in my dream.

Sometimes our nocturnal journeys in the sleep state bring spiritual insight. Holy beings, gurus or advisors might appear with a message, guidance or comfort for the soul. In the last chapter of The Power of You Other Hand, I describe dreams I had in which gurus appeared with powerful messages for me. In one, a guru appeared and was slowly replaced with me as a blissful baby (as I actually appeared in Baptismal photos). I understood from that dream that my Inner Child work had to be the center of my healing work as a therapist and teacher. My Inner Child would lead me. I introduced this guidance from a dream in a chapter in The Power of You Other Hand, entitled Recovery of the Inner Child. That chapter later evolved into a whole book, my bestseller Recovery of Your Inner Child.

Drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand can greatly enhance your exploration of guidance from the dream state. Here are some techniques for remembering and exploring dreams using your non-dominant hand for drawing and writing. When doing dream work, always have a journal or notebook and colored pens next to your bed.

• First of all, follow Edison’s advice. Before going to sleep, ask your Creative Subconscious to send you a message, some inspiration, or the answer to a problem. With your dominant hand write down the project, issue or problem you want help with. Note: If you have trouble recalling your dreams, ask your Creative Subconscious to come through when you wake up. It might take a few days, so be patient.

• As soon as you wake up, keep your eyes closed and go over in your mind any images, words or actions you recall from your dreams. You don’t need to remember every detail. Isolated images, words or actions will be enough.

 From The Creative Journal, Swallow/Ohio U, 2015
• Open your eyes. Do not engage in activity or conversation with anyone. No texting, phone calls or chatting with others. With your non-dominant hand draw any images you recall. If it was an auditory dream and you can’t recall visual images or physical actions to draw, then go directly to the next step.

Using your dominant hand, jot down your first impressions of the dream (dream fragments, if that is all you can recall).

• Do a written dialogue with each visual image in your dream. (If there were a lot of them and you don’t have time, do more dialogues later on.) Start with the first or most powerful image. With your dominant hand, ask questions of the image. Who or what is it? How does it feel? Why? Why has it appeared in your dream. What does it want from you? Finally, what does it want for you? A gift? A lesson? Your non-dominant hand writes the answers (speaking for the image in your dream).

Harvest the wisdom of your Creative Unconscious. Sweet dreams!

Lucia

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Grief Work Using the Non-Dominant Hand

This week’s guest blogger, Elva Villarreal, is a practitioner of Creative Journal Expressive Arts and Visioning® Coaching. After teaching school for many years she became a workshop leader, coach and facilitator of cancer support groups for H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Emotionally), held at McAllen Public Library in McAllen, Texas. After her mother’s death, Elva wrote a book entitled I Am Here, illustrated by artist and CJEA colleague, Lisa Brown. Elva works with professional caregivers, therapists and counselors, and includes non-dominant hand journaling in her workshops.

Grief Work Using the Non-Dominant Hand

I often introduce workshops with movement to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms recordings. I usually use selections in which Gabrielle narrates body parts for inspiring spontaneous movement. She also has music covering many moods and allowing for physical expression of feelings. There are no dance steps or instruction in how to move. All movement is improvised in response to the music. We follow this with Dancing on Paper, in which participants scribble out feelings to music with their non-dominant hand using whatever colors feel right to them.

Then I read my book and have the group journal about someone they miss. It could be a loss through death or other kind of separation. They use their non-dominant hand to draw the person. Using their dominant hand, they write the qualities of that person which they love and miss. Then on another sheet, through the non-dominant hand, the other person writes them a letter. Participants then partner up to read each other’s letter to one another.

When working with professional caregivers, I start my workshop with a presentation of concepts of healing through art and writing, and the technique of using the non-dominant hand. I often get left brain questions and discussions about clients such as: "What are the steps to get a client to access the right brain?” “What if a client doesn’t know which color he should choose or what he should draw, and he keeps asking questions for reassurance?” etc., etc. I am able to quiet them down when they do the exercises. That’s when I often see a flood of tears!

Caregivers often have personal losses as well as the deaths of patients or residents in care facilities with whom they have been working. They need the opportunity to process their grief. It is helpful to do this collectively in a group. They also express their grief about other things in their lives such as a recent cancer diagnosis of a loved one, early loss of a parent, “empty nest syndrome,” stress, and a need for peace and balance in life.

These workshops for therapists and counselors highlight the fact that professional caregivers also experience tough things in their personal lives. They too have a need for processing feelings and nurturing themselves. I am reminded of the series of workshops offered by Creative Journal Expressive Arts instructors Vicki Muir and Marsha Nelson for therapists in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I joined this CJEA team to present five days of workshops to different groups of therapists. I also had the privilege of leading a children’s workshop, with Vicki doing a drumming activity at a Children’s Grief Center, while Marsha worked with their parents. We were able to show professionals dealing with their own losses from the hurricane how to care for others while taking care of themselves.

Elva Villarreal
elvavi382@gmail.com

“Use of the non-dominant hand for drawing and writing opens up buried feelings and allows them to be released from the body onto paper. The wisdom and comfort that result provide a powerful support during the grieving process. Furthermore, a practice of journaling during a period of grief is extremely helpful. Grief knows no timetable, so journaling can be done anytime feelings of sadness or missing a loved one come up.” –Lucia Capacchione

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Lucia

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Giving a Voice to Art

Our guest blogger this week is Suzette Morrow, art teacher at Coast Union High School and Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria, California. She is also a graduate of Creative Journal Expressive Arts and Visioning® Coach Training. Suzette is currently working on a Masters Degree in Fine Art and has been using her non-dominant hand in explorations of artwork that has been emerging for a student show. As you will see, journaling is part of her creative process. The brown and white sculptures below are accompanied with a journal entry written with both hands. The sculptures speak with her non-dominant hand.

Giving a Voice to Art

These sculptures were what showed up one by one in my art making without knowing why. I sat down and drew them first. Then I used Lucia's method of journaling with them asking them why they were there. I was so surprised by how dominant the inner critic was in my unconscious. 

Suzette giving a voice to her art through journaling with her non-dominant hand
About a month ago and 30 sculptures later, they started getting smaller. Now they are pill size and I plan to put them into a glass jar for the first round of shows for my MFA. This will be to get critiques and feedback on my process, so it is the source as well as the product. 
 The Many Faces of the Inner Critic
These are my inner critic pieces. They are getting smaller, but still persistent. These are part of my show.

Suzette Morrow
Suzet.com
Suzette.morrow@gmail.com
Follow Suzette on Instagram @suzettemorrow

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Lucia

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Thursday, July 4, 2019

You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

Non-dominant drawing and journaling is being used for training healthcare professionals with great results. This post illustrates the value of in-service support using these methods. Contributed by Dr. Marsha Nelson, she is also co-founder and supervisor of my Creative Journal Expressive Arts Certification Training Program.


You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

I have been using the Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) methods for over 27 years for myself and others. During the past two years I have had the honor of introducing Dr. Lucia Capacchione’s methods to a group of dedicated caregivers at a memory care facility in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. These dedicated caregivers tend to their patient’s needs lovingly and with an extreme amount of patience. This is all well and good, but wait, who offers these caregivers any compassion? As Dr. Capacchione makes abundantly clear, “You can’t give from an empty cup.” The administration of this memory care facility has been VERY supportive of their staff members by inviting me to offer the CJEA tools with their compassionate care-giving staff members.

I have created a caregiver’s stress release program which uses the CJEA activities of clay, mask-making, collage, Dancing on Paper (using markers to scribble their stress out to music), journaling using both the dominant and non-dominant hands and movement activities. Currently, I offer the staff 1 to 1 ½ hours worth of self-care activities quarterly per year. I present Dr. Capacchione’s pioneering technique of using the non-dominant hand to draw and then journal with the drawing using both the dominant and non-dominant hands.

I create a topic for each visit to the memory care facility. I talk about the topic for at least 5 to 6 minutes. It could be the topic of grieving the loss of a patient or loved one. First step is to have them draw a picture of how they felt when they learned one of their patients had died. This is followed by a conversation with the drawing to see what it has to say to them. I guide them to write four basic questions with their dominant hand. The answers are written with the non-dominant hand, speaking as the drawing. For participants whose first language is other than English, I always invite them to write in their mother tongue. The human brain is hardwired to the sound of our mother’s or early caregiver’s voice, and our childhood emotion-laden memories are often encoded in our first language. For this reason the language we first heard is important when expressing emotions through journaling.

The four basic questions I share with the participants are as follows:
  • Who or what are you?
  • How do you feel?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • What do you have to say to me?
  • Optional - Is there anything else you would like for me to know?
The caregivers find the act of using their non-dominant hand to be relaxing and insightful as well as fun. I often hear comments such as, “This drawing is better than when I use my dominant hand!” or “I can’t believe this information I have received by using my non-dominant hand!” During my latest visit, the accountant in the office next door to the workshop room shared with me, “I see our employees going into your workshops looking stressed and when they leave they look happy and they are smiling.”

Coaching these employees in balancing their stress with self-nurturing will help them feel better by keeping them emotionally and physically healthy. Here are some responses to an evaluation form question about whether or not other employers had offered them self-nurturing tools:

"NO, never has a company cared about how I feel or has offered any self-care tools.”
“Typically we are only offered training in patient care.”

In addition, another staff member commented as follows: “What you are offering to me is helping me become more aware and understanding of myself as a caregiver.” Dr. Capacchione stresses, “Giving from an empty cup is like poisoning the chicken soup.” When are companies going to wake up to the fact that compassion comes with a price tag? The few hours that this company has donated to their employee’s mental health certainly will help with employee retention and less sick days due to being overly stressed. Undoubtedly this will also lead to higher quality care for the residents.

I look forward to my next visit to California and working with a great staff of caregivers who value our CJEA tools.

Marsha Nelson, PhD
CJEA & Visioning® Training Supervisor
956.802.9993 cell/text
marshanelsonphd@yahoo.com

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Lucia

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