What is CJEA?
CJEA stands for Creative Journal Expressive Arts. It is a method of creative expression developed by Lucia Capacchione in the 1970’s when she was going through some difficult health issues. CJEA utilizes the power and unique characteristics of both sides of the brain. This is done by expressing yourself through movement, drawing, sketching, sculpting or other physical methods and writing with your dominant and non-dominant hand.
Is CJEA therapy?
No, it is not therapy, but it is therapeutic. CJEA is a technique that might, for instance, allow you to process and sort through your feelings about a particular event in your life, either past or present, without sharing all the details with anyone. Consequently, it is not counseling or therapy and does not require a licensed therapist, although some licensed therapists who have also received training in CJEA have used the techniques to enhance their clients’ therapeutic experiences. Aside from major traumas or “issues,” it can also help with overall emotional literacy and wellness. Anyone experiencing mental or emotional pathologies should seek the assistance of licensed mental or medical care practitioners.
How exactly does this method work?
You would sit at a table with access to paper, crayons or markers and maybe a pen or a pencil. A certified CJEA professional or facilitator would be at the other side of the table. You would tell them about a situation or event that is troubling you, perhaps something that you haven’t been able to resolve. They only need enough details to understand what generally is going on and then they would give you some related exercises to do. This might include drawing pictures (stick figures are just fine. It is not an art class nor will anyone see your drawings. It is more to help connect what’s in the brain to what’s in your hand) and then, under the practitioner’s direction, writing with your dominant and non- dominant hands. As you do this you will gain insights into your situation. You can then choose how many of those insights you want to share. Your drawings and writings are completely under your control and will not be interpreted by the CJEA practitioner. Evaluating, interpreting or critiquing your work is antithetical to the CJEA method and actually counterproductive, as you need complete privacy to express yourself.
Does the CJEA practitioner give me suggestions on things I need to do to solve my situation?
Not really. They guide you through exercises so you will be better able to come up with your own solutions. We know that can be troubling because sometimes it feels like you have no idea what to do, which is why you want help. But these methods will give you a different perspective, so the answers will come. Your body has amazing ways to heal itself. Why would your mind be different? You really do have solutions in your own head.
How is this different from therapy?
Many therapies involve talking about your situation and expressing your feelings about it. There are two potential problems with that. The first one is that by talking, you are largely using the two main speech centers in your brain, which are located in the left hemisphere. You have mental and emotional content throughout your brain and a band of fibers called the “Corpus Callosum” connecting the two halves of your brain. These fibers are supposed to allow impulses into the other side, but they can also act as buffers. Content from one side of the brain can sometimes be missing in talk therapy. For this reason, we’re not surprised when people who have been in therapy for years sometimes find a single CJEA session to be extremely enlightening. The second problem is that with only 45 minutes to share your situation with a therapist, you are limited as to what you can say, and someone listening to you can only give advice based on what you have told them. This means that many times the solutions offered may not be exactly what you need. And the solutions will vary according to the information that was presented.
This method is less talking and more processing on your own. A fascinating and striking difference between the following two common approaches is instructive. A typical marriage therapy session, for instance, might involve learning to communicate more effectively, using the therapist as a guide to verbally explore sensitive areas, and resolving conflicts in the marriage. In these sessions, participants are encouraged to do a great deal of talking. Our couples’ retreats, which are designed to enrich marriages, have also saved marriages. In these retreats, couples do not speak. Instead, they separately explore their own emotional worlds and have a safe, confidential space in which to put emotional issues on paper. Once they’ve sorted through their own emotions, bringing the unconscious into consciousness, they can more clearly choose to share or not to share with their partner. There is no verbal re-hashing of past hurts, no verbal jousting, and no manipulation. The CJEA practitioner’s role is to “hold the space” for participants to work and feel safe.
Some therapies also involve non-verbal expression: sand therapy, for instance, in which a client might interact with objects in the sand in symbolic ways. To varying degrees, these therapies are more similar to CJEA, but with a key difference: The role of the therapist is to become a trained, outside observer in interpreting the experience of the client. The CJEA practitioner has no such role. A foundational principle of the CJEA method is that such interpretations can be done very effectively by the individual. For some, however, having a trained therapist offer counsel is a wise choice.
CJEA practitioners recognize the value in all types of therapies and therapeutic methods.
Are there books I can read to help me with this method?
Yes, Dr. Lucia Capacchione has written 18 books about this method, and has created an audio course. The best source is her website: www.luciac.com Go to the “store” tab, which contains her list of books that can be ordered.
Charles, Laraine and Jeremy Chamberlain will soon publish a book with the working title: Surviving by a Thread: Finding Joy, Abundance and Resilience in a Turbulent World. Implementation of the concepts in the book will be greatly enhanced by CJEA exercises to be provided via supplemental workshops, webinars and materials.
Is this energy work?
That is a bit difficult to answer because it does involve energy in a way, but it isn’t in the way that energy workers do their work. It is not energy work in the way that a practitioner would read your energy fields and help you transform your energy. But it is energy work in the sense that this process releases and shifts negative energy that is associated with our belief systems and experiences. We have found CJEA methods to work very effectively in conjunction with energy work.
How many sessions do I need to plan on?
That will vary depending on the situation you are working with. Several clients have come with just one particular event or traumatic experience they have struggled with. It has only taken one session to process that event and get the resolution they need. In those cases, we do not see them again until something else comes up for them. But there have also been times when working through one experience has brought up other experiences that have not been resolved, so they will continue to work and process the other experiences. If you have had childhood abuse or trauma of any kind, expect that it will take more sessions and the number will vary from person to person. Those kinds of traumas will require at least 12 sessions to learn how to “re-parent” yourself (See “Will CJEA help me to love myself?” Below)
The great news is that you will gain some insight every time you do a session.
Will CJEA help me to love myself?
Absolutely yes! Dr. Capacchione’s book, “Recovery of your Inner Child” is a great resource. Using that book as a guide, a CJEA practitioner can teach you how to develop those parts of your personality you have lost track of, such as your “Nurturing Parent.” You will learn how to nurture and love yourself again.
Will CJEA help me with my negative self- talk?
Yes, in fact Dr. Capacchiones’s methods are one of the best ways to deal with negative self-talk because you will understand where it comes from and how to overcome it.
Can CJEA help me with depression?
Yes, but you need to understand that this method is NOT a replacement for any medications you may be taking. Depression is caused from repressing your emotions. This can happen over a period of many years or in a short period of time due to trauma. Again, we will share with you tools so you can learn to have Emotional Intelligence and also learn ways to express those emotions in a safe place so you don’t feel the need to repress them.
Can CJEA help me with my health issues?
Most of our health issues are because we have emotions that are stuck in our bodies. These emotions have vibrations that affect our health. Emotions are meant to move and if they are buried or repressed in any way, it causes dis-ease which leads to illness. Dr. Candace Pert, a well-known neuroscientist, pharmacologist, and discoverer of the body’s natural opiate receptors wrote a book entitled “Molecules of Emotions.” This book explains the scientific mechanisms involved in the emotional influence on disease in the body. In the book, she talks about the incredible discovery of opiate receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, our stomachs are designed to receive emotional information from our brains in the form of endorphins. The discovery led to a breakthrough in the study of the mind/body connection and a new field of medicine: psychoneuroimmunology. CJEA tools help us to identify the emotions that are stuck in our bodies that might be causing illness. As you give these emotions a voice, it releases them and allows them to move. According to recent research by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, The Body keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, if you have experienced any kind of trauma in your life, the chances are pretty good that you will have some troubling health conditions.
A certain percentage of health issues are inherited or are the result of accidents. Some are due to personal lifestyle choices about eating, drinking and lack of exercise or sleep. Whatever the cause, illnesses bring up a lot of emotions for us to deal with it. Anytime someone experiences a serious health issue or major accident, there will be a ripple effect of emotions for everyone who knows that person. Emotions will vary from person to person, but they too need to be processed.
Can CJEA help my children deal with our divorce?
Yes, in fact this is a great way to help them because many times they do not know how to express themselves with words. They know they are filled with pain and worry but they do not have the words to express it. They also have to deal with the emotions of both parents. It can be very overwhelming and usually their opinion is not given the weight it deserves. It is a scary time for them and having tools to process what they are feeling can be a blessing to them during this traumatic time in their lives. Divorce will bring up these same emotions even if you are an adult when your parents divorce. In some ways, the trauma is even more painful. You will find yourself having the same fears as if you were a child again in your life, which can be very troubling. It is important that you take the time to deal with what you are feeling about both of your parents.
Can CJEA help me with sexual abuse?
Recoving from sexual abuse can be painful and long-lasting. Childhood sexual abuse can affect so many facets of our lives and can be the root of so many negative beliefs about ourselves and the negative self-talk that is a result of it. When someone has taken advantage of us and we are totally helpless, it can be devastating in many ways. It is possible to overcome the negative effects of sexual abuse and there are many modalities that are helpful. With sexual abuse, it is important to consider more than just one method.
CJEA work is not only helpful but very effective in helping you gain back your personal power. It allows you to give expression to what has happened to you in a very private way so you can feel safe to use the words or pictures you need to express yourself. Remember this work is very private and you do not share your drawings, writings or breakthroughs unless you want to.
The path to healing comes in layers. It can move quickly and it can also take many years. The participant is the one who decides how quickly to let go of the things that have happened to them.
Can CJEA help me with my anger?
Anger is an emotion everyone has felt but we all have different opinions about it. It is a secondary emotion which means the anger is what we feel on the surface and in the forefront of our emotions, but there are always layers of other emotions buried underneath it that are perhaps more difficult to deal with. These emotions are all different for different people and different circumstances. A parent usually doesn’t want to deal with their own fears so it is easier to be angry than admit you are scared about a situation. Anger seems to be more acceptable than many emotions like shame, fear, sadness, loneliness, or helplessness, to name a few. The emotions that are unacceptable to us have a lot to do with our family of origin and they are different for everyone. But we have to find a healthy and acceptable way to express our anger so we can deal with the emotions we have been hiding behind the anger.
CJEA techniques do a wonderful job in allowing someone to express anger in an appropriate way and in an appropriate setting. Often, the underlying emotions are then more easily accessible. We have used these techniques in court-ordered “anger management” settings with very good results. Individuals who have had little insight into their own disturbing outbursts have come away with greater understanding and new tools to handle future anger “triggers.”
Laraine Chamberlain shares an example of one exercise she personally did with anger. ”There was one occasion when I was dealing with a lot of anger. I did a collage of my anger feelings and it was layers and layers of glued pictures on top of each other. Then on top of that I wrote with a marker words that I would not want others to hear but I had to get them out of my brain and body. Then I proceeded to burn the whole collage and watch that energy dissipate. It was very empowering. It felt like I had a huge weight taken off my shoulders.”
So how do I get started with CJEA work?
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