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Art therapy aids in recovery

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By Mary Ann Lyons • • January 1, 1999

Not long ago I attended a seminar given by Joan Borysenko, PhD, titled, “The New Medicine: The Cutting Edge of Mind, Body, Health.” Dr. Borysenko mentioned that the Chinese define the word “crisis” as either danger or opportunity. Using this definition to describe illness, she believed each person had the ability to choose how they would look at their illness, either as something to fear or as an opportunity to learn more about themselves.
When I became ill with CFIDS in March 1995, I felt the illness was a danger. I was unable to get out of bed, felt like I was going to die, was unsure of my financial future and lived in much fear and apprehension.
Within a month of becoming sick, I happened to obtain a book, The Picture of Health, by Lucia Capacchione, PhD. In this book, Dr. Capacchione describes her recovery from a debilitating illness using the art therapy techniques of drawing and writing with her non-dominant hand. Since I was confined to bed, I decided to start the exercises.
The theory behind the technique is that using our non-dominant hand to draw and write taps into our right brain. The right hemisphere controls intuitions, emotional expression and the visual arts. Our analytical, thinking style of being in the world is dominated by our left brain, which keeps us separate from our feelings and creative self. Writing and drawing with our non-dominant hand enables us to contact our right brain and thus release unexpressed feelings and get in touch with our intuitive inner self.
I believed that I was in touch with my feelings, but my drawing from the first exercise really surprised me. I was to draw a picture with my non-dominant hand of how I wanted to look when I was healthy. Out popped a picture of a sexy, naked lady doing a happy, joyous dance. Looking at this vibrant picture colored in shocking pink, helped me to realize that I’d been denying myself the basic needs of touch and physical closeness. At the same time, I also started seeing a very attractive, caring man with whom I was able to get these needs met.
As I progressed through the exercises, I started to look at my childhood beliefs about work and recognized how my obsessive compulsive traits were preventing me from taking appropriate care of myself. As I freed myself from the emotional pain and improved my self care, my symptoms started to slowly disappear. Although writing and drawing with my non-dominant hand was part of my healing program, my recovery and work by Joan Borysenko and Lucia Capacchione has shown that healing the mind/body connection is an is an integral part of a successful treatment plan.
After almost two years of illness I now call myself a “recovering” PWC. I am able to say that CFIDS is no longer a danger but has become an opportunity for me to continue my emotional and physical healing.

Mary Ann Lyons is a licensed marriage, family and child therapist and a recovering PWC in Silverado, Calif. She uses art therapy as a gentle way of helping clients to heal the mind/body connection. She can be reached at her business phone, 714/508-9260.

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