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

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



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