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, May 22, 2020

Journaling Through Crisis: Inner Child Work with Youth

There is a great need for mental health tools for children and teens during this time of global crisis. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic is confusing and traumatic for adults, I think it is even more so for youth. It’s important to give them age appropriate tools for dealing with their feelings and experiences. Our guest blogger, Esther Rappaport, is one of our candidates for certification in Creative Journal Expressive Arts Training. Like many of our CJEA practitioners, she is working with youth, sharing time-tested techniques for expressing emotions, releasing stress, and becoming more self-aware.

Journaling Through Crisis: Inner Child Work with Youth

How are you making sure not to get overwhelmed, anxious or depressed during this chaotic time? Everyone is going crazy. Are you, too? What emotions are you feeling? Which parts of you, which subpersonalities are taking charge?

I think everyone is reacting based on their own previous stories, traits and disowned selves.

For example, I am currently working with a teenage client who is really lonely. She doesn't have friends and almost no social life. She attaches herself to her work and her studies all the time. She’ll stay up late and wake up really early to study. Studying is the only place she feels safe and valued.

Now, all of a sudden there is no school. She is at home and has a phone conference for a few hours a day and the rest of the time she is free. This teenager is thrilled. She doesn’t have to deal with the social pressure. She doesn’t have to feel left out. She doesn’t have to deal with rejection.

However, she realizes that most of her classmates aren’t too excited about this arrangement. “They come to school for the social part,” she notes.

So although she’s glad she’s got this extra break, she realizes her void. She realizes it's up to her to change things and have a better life. But how can she do it?

Lucia’s Creative Journal Expressive Arts methods to the rescue! My client is working her way through the Recovery of the Inner Child book and is currently spending a lot of time journaling with her Inner Child. Especially her Lonely Inner Child.

There have been many realizations, painful truths and action steps that have come out of her dialogues. For example, after being rejected and hurt so many times in the past, she no longer wants to put herself out there and try to make friends. She’s afraid she’ll get hurt again. She has also come to realize that she put her self in a vicious cycle. She thinks no one wants to be friends with her, so when she puts her self out there she is expecting them to ignore her and then they really do. Then she’s only more hurt and doesn’t want to try again.

This sweet client of mine is making the most of this opportunity and is learning about herself on a very deep level.

What are you doing to improve your life in this chaotic time?

Esther Rappaport
Relationship Photographe
Host of the LifePix Relationships Podcast: https://anchor.fm/lifepix-relationships
Candidate for Certification in Creative Journal Expressive Arts 
Email st@lifepixphotography.com



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Friday, May 15, 2020

Creative Healing for a Fractured Collarbone: Weaving Together Non-Dominant Hand Scribbling and Writing

In early February, I fell and fractured my right collarbone. I’d been working in my studio hanging small drawings and watercolors to the wall with push pins. Descending from a small 2 stepladder, I misjudged the bottom step and extended my right leg too far. With my left foot still up on the top step of the ladder, my right foot was unable to land steadily on the floor. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor on my right side, still holding onto the ladder, which came down with me.

Long story short, the result was a fractured right collage bone (clavicle) and badly bruised right should, arm and elbow. The irony of all this was not lost on me, my friends, students and the physician in ER when I told him I’d written a book called, The Power of Your Other Hand. Upon showing me the X-ray results, he informed me that I’d have to keep my right arm in a sling for a while and limit use of my right arm and hand while my collar bone magically knitted itself back together over the next 4 – 6 weeks. No surgery required, just self-care, rest, and patience while Mother Nature glued the bone back together.

I am naturally right handed, so guess what? For a month I had to practice what I preach and teach and use my non-dominant (left) hand for almost everything: including writing, drawing, painting, typing, using a mouse, brushing my hair, shaking hands, etc. The corona virus was just hitting California, so “social distancing” was IN and shaking hands with people was OUT for health reasons. No driving, of course, and none of my regular leg and upper body exercising for strength at the gym. I’d get physical therapy later.

It could have been worse, I observed. If I hadn’t already had hip replacements on both sides, I might have broken a hip. No chance. These hips are made of unbreakable ceramic and titanium. So, grateful to be walking, I launched into my own healing program. My physician was out of town, so I made an appointment to see him upon his return. We had a phone conversation. An expert in vitamins with his own line of supplements, I got some supplements designed to help with bone growth and mending. And then I started Creative Journaling.

I drew the outline of my body (front and back) and let each body part tell me how it felt in a word or two or three. There were lots of places that were hurting and they had plenty to say.

What I learned after in depth dialogues (using my non-dominant hand to speak for the body parts) was that I needed to “rest, be quiet, not work, slow down…let the parts (of my personality) that go out in the world and are always in charge have a rest. Last year was all about that. This year is about being at home, care-giving us & out home….” We’d just renovated the kitchen. The emphasis was on “a place to nurture self and be nurtured.”

My fractured shoulder told me, “Your business right now is to take care of me.”

About 3 weeks after the injury, my arm still in a sling, I was able to do some bilateral (2-handed drawing) to music in my journal. I call this “Dancing on Paper” and always find it very relaxing in the face of daily news about COVID-19 and how rapidly the virus was spreading. Anxiety was in the air, as the corona virus became a worldwide pandemic, with entire cities and countries in lock down in an effort to contain it. I hadn’t realized how much tension was stored in my body from the injury and from the news until I left it on the page through scribbling and then writing to the rhythms of Keith Jarrett jazz piano solos.

The message, again, was that I needed to “baby myself like an infant” in order to heal my collarbone. It was written with my non-dominant hand using two pens of different colors.

As the words formed with my left hand, I thought, “Yes, it always comes back to inner child healing.” I realized that my right hand, which is the side of the body that does so much giving and reaching out and being in charge in the world, was forced to rest on my own stomach, due to being in a sling. The energy that I'd been putting out for many months, leading workshops, doing book signings, etc., was now being turned inward for my own healing. I continued scribbling my pain and stress out, this time with both hands.

Weaving insights from my Creative Journaling and the emotional release they provided into my daily program of rest and self-care has moved my recovery along quite beautifully. As of this writing, I have an appointment to start physical therapy, and will continue with the journaling and more artwork as my arm permits.

One important observation that I want to share is this: My experience over the years is that each and every body part or physical symptom has its own unique, situational and time-bound message. That is why I do not have much confidence in books that claim to tell you what your symptom, disease, body parts or pains “mean.” My clients, my students and my professional associates have all had the same experiences I have had. Each time we converse with our bodies we get different answers. The words from the body differ dramatically depending on the circumstances of our lives, the nature of the particular pain, the specific location, and the guidance the body gives on how to heal it. There is no easy formula for this. No quick answer from outside, from an “expert” or author who claims to know what’s going on in YOUR body and in YOUR life on this particular day.

The lessons the body has to teach us are individual, very particular and personal to us at any given time. Drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand can unlock the gifts that illness, injury or pain have to give us.

Note: Journal prompts for bilateral drawing and body parts dialogues are in Chapters 3 and 6 of The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari, 2019). There are also many journal prompts for self-healing in Drawing Your Stress Away and Hello, This is Your Body Talking (Ohio U/Swallow Press, 2017).

Be well,


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Friday, May 8, 2020

From Chaos to Calm: Drawing and Collaging Our Way Through COVID-19

The anxiety we have all felt in the face of coping with COVID-19 is universal. To one degree or another we have all felt it. Anxiety comes in many colors and themes. It may appear as fear of the unknown, of living in highly unpredictable times and with circumstances out of our control. Then there is the fear of coming down with the virus. For many millions, panic about financial survival weighs heavily. Many are scared about day to day challenges, such as schooling children at home, finding much needed supplies that have become scarce, or care-giving sick family members (whether they have COVID-19 or not).

We all need ways to release this build up of anxiety from the body and mind. If we don’t, our immune systems can be weakened (the last thing we need right now). As Dr. James Pennebaker’s research shows, writing about trauma or crisis strengthens our immune functions. My research with children showed that drawing and writing about anxiety has health benefits. (Edinburg School District, Edinburg, TX, Jefferson Elementary School, 2013-14.) I’ve also observed that creating collages depicting chaos, followed by collages of calm, can bring about a deep state of inner peace.

Scribbling it out

Scribbling with both hands, as well as writing with the non-dominant hand, are great ways to shed anxiety bottled up in the body. Using both hands for these stress scribbles helps balance my brain and appears to regulate the nervous system.

Letting my non-dominant hand add words can help as well. The looser the writing, the better. Sometimes a simple image will tell the whole story, as in this “Long windy road” scribble when I realized that sheltering in place could last awhile.

When scribbling out my stress I always find that I draw my way to another mood, one of acceptance and calm. The colors often change, as in this stress series when red and black suddenly turned to yellow and blue. I was also healing from a collar bone fracture and bruised arm and found that all the scribbling I had done made my shoulder and arm feel much better. On the last drawing, I wrote, Mending the Fracture.

Collage: Feelings piece by piece

Another great medium for dealing with anxiety and chaotic feelings is collage. The very act of tearing images out of magazines is cathartic. Sometimes the subject matter in the photos expresses accurately how we feel. That was certainly the case with these photos of trash from an article in National Geographic. Just recognizing how the photo depicted my jumbled up feelings was healing in itself. But I went even further and scribbled my mixed feelings out onto the next page, forming the background for more photo fragments of trash.

The words, Finding Our Way to the Future, amidst all the chaos of COVID-19 jumped out at me from the magazine pages. There was something positive we could do. Shelter in place, wear masks in public, protect ourselves and others from this mysterious virus, which was turning up new symptoms every day and striking new unsuspecting populations, like the young.

On the facing page, I placed a photo of the cosmos torn asunder. I got the feeling that this too would pass. The split seemed to represent a big divide between “life before COIVD -19” and “life after COVID-19”. I had no idea what that meant logically, but my intuition said there would be a big sea change in our lives. And yes, it would be a “trip on the wild side” as the words stated.

As usual, this morphed into another mood and a new message on the next page. Holding pictures of underwater images and a deep sea diver with the caption, Get a clearer picture of the… inspired me to write the words…Inner World. That’s what all this chaos and stress were leading me to. I added to the left, Healing through travels in Inner World. After that I wrote Visions of the heart.

It was clear that sheltering in place while also recovering from a fractured collar-bone were forcing me inward. Time to introspect, feel my feelings, and listen to my heart.

At that moment I noticed a Get Well card from a friend sitting to the side of my work area. The sentiments were perfect for this moment. So I glued the card into my journal. The words, Time and rest, gentle healing, and a deep-down cared-for feeling!…echoed exactly what I needed at that time in my life.

Later on in my journal I expressed the “vision of my heart” by creating collages of places and scenes I associated with peace and well-being: safe and beautiful places I’d been to in Hawaii and other spots on the planet.

This led to a collage I call, Calm, that speaks for itself. A cozy, safe sanctuary in which to rest, relax and recover.

For more activities in scribbling and collage, please see my books: Drawing Your Stress Away and The Art of Emotional Healing.

These journal pages also appear at my YouTube channel, Lucia Capacchione, in the series: The Creative Journal Goes Viral - Part 4.


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Friday, May 1, 2020

Sheltering-in-place: Finding Inner Freedom Through the Non-dominant Hand

In early March, before shelter-in-place became “a thing,” I was already doing it. Having survived a horrible case of the Hong Kong flu in 1968, I didn’t want this virus anywhere near me. I was familiar with the 1918-19 influenza outbreak in Los Angeles. My mother, a preschooler at the time, had carried vivid memories of those terrible times, which she shared with me.

I researched as much information as possible about COVID-19 and, in the process, learned about quarantine strategies that had worked effectively in past pandemics. I learned that San Francisco had been largely spared in 1918 because of a robust quarantine policy put in place right away. When they eased up on it too soon, they were hit hard by a second wave.

Sometime in early March, we began staying at home and only going out for essentials. I had worked at home for all my adult life, when I wasn’t on an occasional book or workshops tour. But this was different. On March 11, I expressed my feelings about voluntarily being at home all day and night and limiting contact with others. Using both hands, I drew this maze-like scribble.

I was able to express the feelings of being contained and protected but at the same time held in. As I drew the concentric circles inside the enclosure, it felt like going around in circles inside the enclosed space. The drawing expressed all the feelings I was having at the prospect of staying at home all the time. We had also been having raining days, so that familiar “stir crazy” sensation of being cooped up inside due to cold, wet weather was there as well.

The next drawing I did was a scribble pattern that felt like the chaos that was being unleashed in the world as COIVD-19 swept across Asia and was making its way down the west coast of the US. After scribbling with both hands for a while, my dominant hand began doing its own thing by coloring in the natural loops created by the scribble pattern. This is an old tried-and-true warm up activity used by art therapists, but now it took on a whole new meaning. This felt like people in quarantine sequestering in their own separate spaces. They were all floating in the chaos, but contained in their own quarters. I wrote the words, “quarantined COVID”.

On the same day I drew what felt like scribbled chaos in orange (using both hands) followed by a brown cage-like grid. Were the cage bars somehow an attempt to contain the chaos? Or were they standing between me and the chaos, protecting me from it? Perhaps both. We know that staying at home protects us, but also protects others if we are carrying the virus.

Writing with my non-dominant hand, I inadvertently misspelled quarantined as quaranteened. Later, I recalled having a serious case of bronchitis when I was seventeen, followed by measles, and having to be in bed for many weeks. The present was triggering a past trauma. This kind of double entendre happens all the time with the non-dominant hand-writing. The unconscious knows what it knows, even if we don’t. And it will “blurt” it out through the non-dominant hand in words and in drawing.

I did many drawings that day, and more scribbling with both hands that looked like quarantine in times of chaos.

By contrast, another drawing done that day was a harbinger of good things to come. A dynamic blue and green container holds a bright, flowing yellow light.

When the official sheltering-in-place announcement was made by our Governor to begin on March 19, I was ready. I saw it as an opportunity to use the extra time on my hands to do journaling. As anyone who knows my work is aware, journaling is my personal therapy, meditative practice, refuge in the storm, and creative incubator. It has certainly been all of that and more during these trying times.

On April 5, after two weeks of the official shelter-in-place mandate, I decided to draw out my feelings about staying at home all day every day. My non-dominant hand grabbed a black marker and started at the center working outward forming a square-ish spiral. From there I continued with brown maze-like lines expanding out from the center spiral. The final black lines on the perimeter felt like an outer protection for the inner space.

This was followed by a two-handed dialogue with the drawing. My dominant hand asked the questions (in brown). My non-dominant hand answered in black.

What are you?
I’m the insides. Your insides. All cooped up inside you. ON this gray dark rainy day. 

How do you feel? 
Grounded. Like when we were kids. Couldn’t go out on rainy days. We felt restless + stir crazy like now, like all these days of staying home. I feel sad, too. 

Why do you feel this way? 
Cuz of COVID19 we are staying home – we’ve been staying put for over 2 weeks now. Even when it’s not raining like today. I miss doing things + going places we always did before. Like going out for lunch or dinner, going to the gym for exercise every week, getting coffee at the coffee shop near the gym – they closed down now. Going to the local shops. Can’t do any of that… I really miss that. 

And I miss seeing all the people in town – friends, shop-keepers, and visiting with them. It’s like a ghost town in town. Empty. Only the bank + grocery stores + gas stations open. 

I’m so glad the ice cream parlor on the west end of town has been open. When we got a cone there last week I though, THIS is definitely a necessity. Ice cream is essential right now. That made me feel happy. If I couldn’t have my ice-blended latte from the coffee shop, I could at least have a coffee ice cream cone! But I had to eat it outside, alone on the sidewalk because everything is take-out these days. And I was the only one on the street. Just me and a couple of cars passing by. 

What can I do to help you? What do you need from me?
Exercise at home on the little trampoline some more. We started that last week but I need to do that more and longer periods of time. I like doing the walking, a little jumping, and dancing on it to music. 

Also, keep letting feelings out by “dancing on paper.” Scribbling and drawing to music in the journal here. And even on big paper. 

Is there anything else?
Yes. Call friends and stay in touch. It’s OK to email, but I like hearing the voices of friends + family + co-worker. Skyping is good, too. 

Also, I miss eating out. So do what you did yesterday and get take out. It’s like “Dining out at home.” And it feels good to help the restaurant folks. It keeps them working. And we have to help each other. That feels really good, especially right now. I’m glad we donated to NOKIDHUNGRY.COM. THE IDEA OF KIDS GOING HUNGRY OR ANYONE GOING HUNGRY REALLY MAKES ME SAD. So donate + help others. That feels better to do that. 

I’m glad we can help others when we do work as a therapist on the phone + Skype. And when we do group calls for CJEA or interviews + podcasts + YouTube videos. Helping others helps me. And sheltering in place helps everyone. 


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