The Healing Power of Artistic Expression

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Attendees at a Heart Heals workshop use abstract painting to process their feelings.

“There is transformational power in art,” explained Newport Beach resident Jennifer Mathews. “Letting go and creating something helps people access feelings that the left brain protects. Art can help us heal.”

Jennifer is the founder and facilitator for Heart Heals, which provides therapeutic art workshops for anyone interested in personal growth, self-discovery or relief from stress, fear, trauma or grief. The three-hour workshops use guided exercises and abstract painting to prompt creative self-expression.

Jennifer has a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design from UCLA and is an artist at Mission Fine Art Gallery in San Juan Capistrano. She is a certified facilitator for Art4Healing from Chapman/Brandman University.

Jennifer was touched by the life change of a family member as he struggled to recover from drugs and alcohol. She realized the potential for her workshops to promote healing for those in recovery.

“I was so moved by the transformation I saw happen to those who worked so hard in their recovery, trying to be honest about themselves and their lives, and I thought I could help with art,” Jennifer explained. “Though I was originally interested in helping people in recovery, I now see how helpful and applicable Heart Heals is with so many issues. It’s for anyone interested in personal growth and self-discovery. The truth is, everyone is in recovery in some way; we all need healing from something.”

“The consistent feedback has been that people appreciate the safe environment to process their feelings, and the non-threatening way to articulate and share these emotions, if they wish,” Jennifer continued. “Miracles can take place when people have new insights about themselves.”

Jennifer is quick to point out that you don’t need to know how to paint to participate in the workshops.

A painting by a Heart Heals attendee.

“You don’t have to have a creative bone in your body,” she said. “It’s not supposed to look like something; it’s abstract color and shape. This is not art therapy; there is no diagnosis or interpretation. I’m not an art therapist, but a facilitator of the creative process, and everyone is in charge of their own exploration. I watch people acknowledge what’s going on inside them, and they begin to feel some peace with the feelings they are painting about. Though issues don’t always get solved, participants hold on to them more loosely. With abstract painting we are translating experiences and observations, like journaling with art.”

“The process can sometimes be emotional for people, depending on what they are dealing with, but no one will know anything about your work unless you choose to tell them during our small group sharing time,” Jennifer added. “Participants almost always say they feel a perspective shift; the healing comes from the ability we have to access the feelings.”

Samantha Cederquist has taken the workshop five times.

“It’s been extremely helpful,” she said. “The art expression helps my soul reveal my truth to my consciousness. The power of using paint to express my feelings in a safe, lovingly shepherded manner with Jennifer allows a freedom I have not experienced in many years of ‘talk therapy.’ Her questions are uniquely prompting and God ‘speaks’ as we let our fingers of colors move across the canvas. … It’s like I am inviting God in to ‘clean house.’”

Next month, Jennifer will be presenting the benefits of her workshops at the Addiction Treatment Centers & Professionals Consortium of California. She has been holding monthly workshops at Mariners Church, but hopes to expand.

“I’d like to broaden the reach of my workshops, because they are impacting people in a real way,” Jennifer said. “I’ve always been drawn to painting stories of people I see around me, now I feel honored to be able to help people abstractly paint their own story. I’ve been working with different groups to hold individual events, and I’m interested in tailoring the themes to the needs of the community. I want to go where God is leading.”

“This has been a faith journey for me,” she continued. “Heart Heals makes everything I’ve been through make sense. It uses my life experiences and my art background; it shows how creativity, spirituality and loving people can all intersect.

I believe God is the Great Creator, and this creative process points people to hope, healing and, for many, a growing relationship with God.”

The next local Heart Heals workshops are July 13, 6-9 p.m. and Aug. 12, 2-5 p.m. Workshops cost $49 and are limited to 12 people. They are open to men and women, adults and teens, and all supplies are provided.

For further information, go to www.heart-heals.com. Cindy can be reached at [email protected]

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