Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Creativity Development

Originally posted on March 20, 2014

This may become another cultural institution, located somewhere between spirituality development (which is one way of thinking about modern religion), education (especially modern kinds, like Montessori for older youngsters), continuing education and recreation (recognizing that one keeps learning and reinventing oneself throughout life), and so forth.

Creativity development, in retrospect, has been located to some large degree in the setting of “psychotherapy.” We should recognize that the sicker forms of mental illness are not just greater in intensity, but for the most part of a quite different type. (Analogously, smallpox is not just severe poison ivy.)

Recognizing creativity development as its own process, it becomes apparent that much of what had been psychotherapy for the not-so-sick is really closer to personal growth work or coaching. In the past, this activity often was found in encounter groups or other activities associated with the human potential movement. Some has gone on in adult education classes, and all sorts of workshops and events that operate in-between.

The key to creativity development is that it’s a mixture of empowerment and learning-by-doing, a bit of adventure and experimentation, exploration and room to make mistakes, notice mistakes, correct mistakes.

The empowerment comes with learning that the culture is changing so fast, and people are so different, so individual, that “answers” that seemed to work for others in the past may not work perfectly for this person in this situation. There needs to be a willingness to take responsibility, and support for explorations done with this attitude—all this is part of creativity development.

The problem with traditional models of therapy is that a degree of slave mentality can be sustained, the belief that the therapist knows “the answer,” what one should do. It’s the opposite of empowerment, and people can be submissive and afraid to take risks, adventure. Empowered clients dare to teach the therapist what would be more helpful than what the therapist just said, and ideally, therapists should foster this kind of empowerment. Therapists themselves need to be liberated from having to be exactly right, and this models how two people can negotiate to find what works better to move the process forward.

In other words: Therapists, teach your clients to correct you. Clients, teach your therapist to enjoy being open to feedback. “I would rather you put it this way…”  In creativity development, the therapist or facilitator doesn’t have to do everything just right; rather, the process involves helping people discover that they can guide and participate in how they are helped.

Folly Isn’t Illness

A related idea is to break folly out of the medical model. It isn’t a sickness, it’s the human condition. Psychiatrists and psychotherapist don’t have a pill or a guaranteed treatment. Therapy might better be viewed as empowered education, creativity development.

This is a rapidly changing world, and the traditions and ways to be a success a few decades much less generations ago don’t work today. Therapist who are wise can facilitate clients’ becoming more adaptive, flexible. It isn’t fixing a sickness, but rather developing a person’s capacity to re-tell his or her story more constructively. Based on this, further creative moves may emerge.

Reflections on the History of Psychotherapy

I’m all for this process of re-thinking, encouragement. Although many of the foundations for this process arose from people thinking about applied psychology, psychoanalysis, other approaches, the point here is that for most people without major mental illness, this is not quintessentially a medical problem. Nor is the process of developing creativity one that is scientific.

This is annoying for those who want to establish a scientific foundation for psychotherapy, but for most folks it’s a matter of art, story-telling, encouragement, adventure. These “patients” or “clients” aren’t sick, they’re struggling with an ever-more complex world.

Admittedly, for some the sick role is not to be ruled out; and for some few, it’s not always easy to differentiate when thinking of the situation as if it were a sickness or merely some bad habits of mind. So much depends on a variety of themes:
   – how psychologically-minded is the person
   – how much are there hidden agendas so that the “client” uses the therapy as an excuse in any way
   – how much there are hidden or overt co-morbidities, addictions, marital problems, other stresses not being addressed
   … and so forth.

But trying to make it all scientific is to reduce a problem as varied as regional and local politics to a set of rules that everyone can and should use. In reality, it is infinitely diverse. Indeed, one of the features of contemporary creativity development is to identify some ways that an individual is somewhat special, unique, and ordinary techniques or theories may not apply.

Well, enough for now. Mor later.

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