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Meet Jessica Shell of Sage Willow in Evanston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Shell.

Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
With my deep compassion for others fused with my love for expressive arts, it was no question that expressive arts therapy was the right path for me. The path to creating my holistic mental health practice, Sage Willow, followed after becoming a licensed clinical professional counselor, board certified registered art therapist and registered yoga teacher. I got my start working in a residential facility for children, a therapeutic day school, and various group private practices. I then decided to become an independent practitioner to incorporate all of my skills and passions into one platform where others could find benefit through creative art, writing, and yoga.

I absolutely love what I do. It is extremely rewarding to help others find fulfillment and meaning in their lives. I appreciate the vulnerability and honesty that goes into the process of self-realization and healing. My intention is to offer a wealth of opportunities for restoration and creative exploration in a nurturing atmosphere.

Like a tree, our growth depends on our ability to ground and center ourselves, to adapt in changing seasons, to shed what we no longer need and to branch out towards light and energy. Sage Willow was founded to nurture people through this journey of coping, growing and healing.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I didn’t go into this career for the money. I went into it for the people. Numbers are a whole different language to me. Rather, I think in words and images. So as someone with limited knowledge of the many elements involved in developing an independent practice—insurance paneling, web designing, marketing, standardized coding, licensure requirements and financial obligations (the list goes on but you get the idea) –- it took a lot of hard work and diligence to make it all comes together cohesively.

With patience and encouragement, I put myself out there. Personally experiencing vulnerability and fear along this bumpy road made me more equipped to effectively work with clients in similar emotional states. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sage Willow story. Tell us more about the business.
Sage Willow provides professional training along with individual, couples, family and group therapy for children, adolescents, and adults with concentration extending from verbal therapy exchange to the incorporation of art and yoga. My clinical experience and intensive training have allowed me to effectively assist a wide range of ages and mental health and developmental issues. Areas of practice include anxiety, depression, autism, attention deficit disorder, trauma, grief, developmental deficits, relational difficulties, behavioral struggles and family turmoil.

I have specialized in working with children and teens. I received specific training and experience in working with children, including Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, Child Assault Prevention Program, Radiant Child Yoga, practice within a temporary crisis shelter for teens and a residential facility for children along with a therapeutic grade school. I very much enjoy the innate playfulness, imagination, and creativity inherent in all children. I work with people of all ages to access these inner reserves as well.

When working with children, playfulness and sensory experience allow for enjoyment and ease as they address more serious issues or learn coping strategies to emotionally regulate themselves. Especially with children who may not have the intellectual insight to be conscious of or have the capacity to directly address their issues– such as trauma and grief– they can externalize their situation and talk in reference to the art rather than about themselves. In this way, they are less vulnerable, resistant and/or ashamed.

I have noticed that for children with ADHD, the opportunity to experiment and incorporate the senses allows them to gain more mental focus on the present as they engage in their artwork. They can concentrate and limit distraction through the manipulation of materials, the tactile sensations and the visual stimuli associated with art making.

Sometimes when words are not enough and when feelings are a mystery, art embraces the soul’s need for expression and visibility. As I have worked with children with anxiety or depression, they may not even know how they feel let alone have the words to express it. Art provides a different means of drawing awareness and communicating experience.

I recognize that each individual has his or her own unique story, a story that could be expressed and heard, written and rewritten, destroyed or treasured. I strive to provide a safe, supportive and comfortable environment that allows the story to unfold through movement, art, and written expression.

In addition, I founded Jung at Art® to offer experiential workshops geared around the principles of Carl G. Jung, who founded analytical psychology and greatly impacted the progression of psychological understanding and practice. It is an honor to incorporate the amazing perspectives and groundbreaking discoveries of such an admirable man with the use of expressive art mediums.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Throughout my life and while navigating the rough terrain of developing my own business, luck never seemed to be in my favor. I never won a contest or a lottery ticket and I never had wonderful things just fall into my lap. It frequently felt that obstacles appeared in my way and I was running against the wind, but my perseverance and tenaciousness surpassed my expectations. I found success by accepting and working through my challenges. This only made me stronger and capable of assisting others in finding their own success.

Besides that, I am extremely blessed to have an amazing support system. My family and my friends remind me every day how precious life is and to appreciate each beautiful moment. I can’t get much luckier than that.

There is a deeper strength and light within us all. Creativity and self-expression nourish these qualities. It is my purpose to share this vision with others and help each individual discover their own radiance… one smile at a time. I believe success is not measured by money or fame, but rather by our ability to be like the tree— rooted, nurtured, persistent, patient, unique and growing.

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  1. Bonnie Shell

    December 6, 2017 at 12:27 am

    Best of luck to you Jessica. What you are doing is truly admirable.

  2. Philip Osborne

    December 6, 2017 at 11:07 am

    What an inspiring portrayal! I admire your creativity, Jessica, as well as your business sense, hard work, and courage. You have my thanks for what you offer our community and my wishes for continued rewards and success.

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