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Do Therapists Need Creativity Anymore?

Rich SimonBy Rich Simon  Why would any therapist need to worry about bringing more “creativity” into therapy?  After all, isn’t the primary objective of therapy establishing an atmosphere of comfort and safety for the client, a haven from the life-sapping miseries—anxiety, depression, substance abuse, relationship problems—that motivated them to seek help in the first place.  In fact, the idea of a therapist pressuring some poor, struggling soul to be more “creative” in his or her approach to life can seem like borderline malpractice. The last place you ought to have performance anxieties is your therapist’s office!

But, like it or not, genuine creativity is woven into the very warp and woof of good therapy. It’s the spark of life, the living energy within the unique personalities of both therapist and client—passed back and forth between them like a little flame–that propels the conversation forward.  It’s what generates a sense of previously undreamt of possibility in sessions that life doesn’t have to continue along the same barren course, that there might truly be something new under the sun.  It might accurately be said that without some element of surprise, of thinking and feeling what hadn’t been thought or felt before, of looking at the same old stuff in a slightly different way—the essence of creativity—there is no real therapy.

Unfortunately, since even therapists are human, we can get stuck in the clinical doldrums along with our clients—going back and forth on that same, rutted road, rehashing the same old issues over and over until both of us are half dead with tedium. We all know that paralyzing knowledge that this therapy is going nowhere, the feelings of frustration, failure, and sadness that go along with it. And it doesn’t help that the pressure on therapists is intense to follow brief, empirically-validated, protocolized therapy models that insurance companies prefer. Whatever the benefits of these approaches, spontaneous creativity doesn’t seem to be the most salient.

So, what is creativity in the therapy room and how do you get yourself some?  I like to think that all of us have it in us, or else we wouldn’t be therapists—but it does sometimes need a little nudge. There are times when just watching a genuinely creative therapist at work fires up your inner artist. Our new webcast series Creativity in the Consulting Room offers an opportunity to explore the question of creativity’s role in therapy with a number of prominent therapists and a chance to see several of them at work. In one session, Steve Andreas shares clips from a vintage session with the great Virginia Satir and points out that much of what she does, far from being mysterious, is based on a repertoire of clearly defined skills that anyone can learned.  But, what sets Satir apart is her ability to light a creative fire in her client, to not only demonstrate her own creativity but to expand her client’s range of choice and emotional expression. In another session, award-winning actress Ann Randolph shows how therapists can apply the principles of improv right in session to break through the gridlock of a client’s rigid emotional patterns.

“In the creative unconscious, everything is possible, nothing is locked down, you can go anywhere from anywhere—it is the open space of infinite possibility, which we call play,” says trance expert Steve Gilligan in his interview.  This is the kind of psychic space in which many of our clients can breathe more freely, feel more expansive, more optimistically open to life’s possibilities—if only they could get there. And for most of us, the moment in which we feel truly alive in our work is when creativity enters into our work and we help clients unlock the inner prisons that confine them, take a look outside at the bright blue sky and, maybe if it’s a really good session, take a few tentative steps into the beautiful, blooming day.

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One Response to Do Therapists Need Creativity Anymore?

  1. Yes! We do need Creativity in the Consulting Room. It is through authentic, spontaneous and creative processes that one can transform and heal. The creative process involves both hemispheres of the brain and is truly integrative on all levels of functioning.

    Not only does the creative process help patients but I believe it expands the therapeutic skill of clinicians. Life and relationships are dynamic processes and require the openness to creative action— the mystery of creating and not fully cognitively “knowing” and directing. This is wholeness. This is healing. Being in the moment, mindful of how each person in the consulting room is a creator and active participant.

    The Creative Arts in Therapy are professions that are underutilized! Please recognize and include the masters level counselors of Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy and Music Therapy in this critical discussion. I am a masters level board certified dance/movement therapist and nationally certified counselor. I often get referrals from other clinicians who have reached an impasse with strictly verbal counseling techniques.

    Creative Arts Therapists are BOTH — verbal and non-verbal clinicians with additional tools for assessment and direct access to the unconscious and therefore creativity. One does not need to dance, play music or create art to be in therapy with one of these creative arts therapists. The creative process is inherent in their training regardless of the patient/client’s production of art.

    Blending the Arts with Science IS creativity. And YES– creativity does unlock the door to possibility and most of all opens us all to Transformation and Healing!

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