Counselor Ruby Wilcox opens practice in Forest Grove and offers reiki services.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Drug and alcohol counselor Ruby Wilcox sits in her Main Street studio in Forest Grove. Stepping into Ruby Wilcox's studio in downtown Forest Grove, an overwhelming sense of calmness takes over.

Tabletops don crystals and candles. Watercolor pieces adorn the walls, all crafted by Wilcox personally. Looking through the windows, the view overlooks the town as it transitions from summer into fall.

People come here in a state of transition themselves, Wilcox said.

A licensed drug and alcohol counselor, Wilcox recently opened her own private practice, Ruby's Reiki, on 2004 Main St., in downtown Forest Grove.

Here, Wilcox counsels clients facing hurdles including addiction and detox, as well as practice reiki, an alternative healing process based on energy.

The practitioner will place their hands gently on the client in different areas from the head to toe, transmitting energy with the same electricity systems found in acupuncture but without the needles, Wilcox said.

The client is fully-clothed and relaxing on a massage table during this time.

"It just called me and I pursued it," Wilcox said. "It felt like such a good fit in terms of adding it to the recovery process from chemical dependency because it teaches you how to relax."

Performed in a quiet setting, the practice has spiritual ties and dates back to the late 1800s, when a Japanese Buddhist monk and teacher began teaching reiki to students across Japan. Reiki practitioners believe the practice can help people cope with physical injuries, stress, insomnia and anxiety, among other concerns.

Today, it is practiced in almost every country in the world.

Wilcox has studied reiki for more than a decade. During a reiki appointment, Wilcox begins with a guided meditation with her client.

"Many of us don't know how to relax when we are told to," she said.

Wilcox specializes in holistic, artistic methods of addressing chemical dependency, she said. She uses art, reiki, music, aromatherapy, hypnosis and meditation as part of her treatments.

"Traditional recovery from addiction is a lot of 12-step programs and a lot of evidence-based practices," Wilcox said. "What I didn't see is the option for creative methods of recovery that step outside traditional boxes to address our art and spirituality. That is what I want to offer people, and it's time."

Wilcox has performed reiki on clients, family and friends, she said.

"Reiki, for me, is a chance to truly relax," said Wilcox's longtime friend Windy Stein, an administrative assistant at Pacific University's School of Arts and Humanities. "We don't know how to be still. I don't have to think about anything except to be there and breathe."

STAFF PHOTO: JANAE EASLON - Ruby Wilcox created an angel-shaped multimedia piece to commemorate the news coverage following Sept. 11, 2001. The American Medical Association has listed addiction as a disease for decades, Wilcox said, but she doesn't believe enough has been done to find new ways to treat people.

"We are a very punitive society when it comes to addiction and I really want to fix that," Wilcox said. "I don't know how to live my life any other way and it is rewarding for me to offer these services."

Wilcox worked in Portland for several years serving the homeless community and opioid-addicted clients and said it was an "irreplaceable" experience.

"Getting to know them and their families was priceless," Wilcox said. "The way that they are treated and the lack of understanding for what the disease of addiction really means calls to me, I feel very obligated and motivated to advocate for this community."

Wilcox said art therapy is also an important part of her practice, and her go-to form of self-therapy.

She plans to paint in her studio when she is not treating clients, she said.

"Art for me essentially started as telling my own story," Wilcox said. "I didn't intend to share my art with anyone. It has been an interesting journey to experience other people's responses to my art."

Wilcox's watercolor pieces have been seen at local art gallery showings, and are sold in her studio and online on her Etsy shop.

As a form of art therapy, Wilcox channeled her feelings about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks into a sculpture of an angel. The almost-life size bust with wings was made from a newspaper delivered to her home the day after the attacks. She held onto the paper for years, until she sculpted the angel in 2012.

"When I made the angel, I was grief-stricken and enraged all those years after the event.  I remember I spent an entire day making it and I cried and cried," Wilcox said. "Since then, it has helped me process these feelings and I guess it's given me permission to heal, too.  And to forgive."

For more information about Ruby Wilcox and her practice, visit her website.

By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
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