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Creativity and therapy

Creativity in the therapeutic context may be defined as finding a novel solution to problems. I am not talking about the act of being creative but something far more fundamental: our innate human capacity to cope with difficult situations and to solve our own problems. For those of us who are not painters, writers, musicians etc., we may be quick to dismiss our own capacity for creativity. But, creativity is not just about being talented; it is also a way of functioning in the World.

The creative process involves understanding what it is I want and need at any given moment and aggressing forth into my environment to meet those needs. It is a process of allowing space to listen to and sense what my body is communicating (sensations, feelings etc.) and making the necessary creative adjustments, in order to satisfy myself so that I can withdraw and rest. In this ebb and flow of contact and withdrawal, this process is in constant motion; from a problem-solving event as simple as feeling thirsty and drinking water in order to quench my thirst – to a more growthful process, for example, feeling frustrated with how I censor myself at work, and wanting to find a more satisfying and contactful way to communicate my ideas.

Therapy can facilitate a space for two human beings, the therapist and client, to engage playfully and creatively with one another, by slowing down and making room for spontaneous feelings and impulses to emerge. Openness, curiosity and play are all necessary components for allowing our natural creative energy to emerge clearly and brightly. An openness to staying alive in the question; to remaining curious and interested in how we make meaning of the world around us; and allowing ourselves the freedom and flexibility to play, experiment, risk ridicule and transform, are all part of the creative process. However, this process is seriously interrupted when we are rigidly informed by introjects – the “shoulds,” and “should nots” from our early lives that organise our current behaviours. The result of such habitual deliberateness is that we move more and more out of contact with our present situation (PHG, 1951), in turn, hampering our natural spontaneity and dulling our senses and vitality.

Ultimately, creativity is a celebration of life (Zinker, 1977) and therapy can support us in reclaiming our capacity to flexibly adjust to a constantly changing reality. By spontaneously exercising every power of orientation that we have, without holding back, we may come to experience our full potential as creative human beings.

Kate Merrick

Perls, F.S., Hefferline, R.F and Goodman, P. (1951). Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. Julian Press, NY.
Zinker, J, C. (1977). Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy. Random House, NY.