Friday, July 29, 2011



                                VIRGINIA WOOLF   SYLVIA PLATH 

Discussion of the Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity

Although the motivations of subjects in the rumination study may be questionable, the sample size small, and the measure of creativity limited, most other aspects of the study appear to be solid and valid. The discrepancy of past studies on creativity and mental illness and the difficulty in defining those terms have been considered.

They, then, creatively implemented a study to show support for a new view on the mental illness/creativity causal link. A relatively recent study in 2005 provides a solid basis from which to formulate their hypothesis. It appears that the link of rumination may indeed be the key between creativity and mental illness. According to their findings, the 2005 study states, “…that self-rumination independently (a) increases the risk for depression and (b) spurs interest in and ability for creative behavior.”

Despite the contradictions and flaws in the many studies cited above, it seems overwhelmingly possible that the creativity/mental illness link exists when taking into account the numerous possible connections made by these studies.

How to be Effective with Highly Creative Clients

How can this information help counselors become more effective when treating highly creative clients? A goal for mental health professionals is to help clients find the most healthy way possible to live with mental illness and yet not sacrifice creativity. Creativity is generally considered valuable. Abraham Maslow (1971) and Carl Rogers (1970), two important and innovative founders of psychology theory, both support the notion that “…creativity is the epitome of mental health.” The flexibility inherent in the creative process is necessary to help people navigate our present world where things are constantly changing. Much of the research shows that creativity is beneficial and healthy. Creativity helps people to problem solve, and problem solving is essential in therapeutic treatment.

Not only counseling professionals, but also the public, need to understand better the causal links between mental disorders and creativity. Not every creative client is affected or responds in the same way.  For example, even though the manic swings in bipolar individuals can be both inspirational and debilitating, the disorder ultimately appears to cause more suffering than good.

Can the creative process be used to help soothe individuals with mental illness? Many of the abstractionist artists used their creativity to help their dysfunction, therefore, demonstrating that creative expression is healing to both clients and others. However, the self-reflective rumination involved in creating poetry may increase symptoms of mental illness in poets, especially female poets, according to Kaufman and Baer (2002). By understanding these differences counselors can apply more sensitivity and individuality in their individual treatment approach!

Is creativity a good thing or a bad thing? Should counselors encourage creativity in their clients? One researcher maintains “…the line between creativity and madness is a fine one, probably permeable.” To cross the line into the primitive self too often is dangerous, however—like bouncing between insanity and sanity. This bodes especially badly for abstractionists.

Perhaps one of the best methods of helping creative clients with their issues is to educate others. Debunk traditional beliefs:  (1) that suffering for art and an imbalance of emotions is inevitable in the creative process;  (2) that even though creative people are necessarily original and therefore, deviate from the norm, creative achievement and deviant behavior do not necessarily go hand-in-hand;  (3) that, contrary to the opinions of many mentally ill creative clients, diminishing the symptoms of mental illness will help, not hurt the creative process.

These creative clients need help with coping strategies in managing moods and improving self-care. It is important to apprise clients of the psychological risks associated with the creative process and ways they can avoid these risks. Be aware that the thought process of psychosis and bipolar illness are fundamentally different from the thought processes of highly creative people, and learn to distinguish between creative thinking and disturbed, psychotic thinking.


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