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The Role of Creativity in Models of Resilience: Theoretical Exploration and Practical Applications

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This exploration reviews current conceptualizations of resilience and creativity, suggesting important links between these two concepts, and offers a modified model for future research and applied clinical interventions. First, the authors examine four main models of resilience. Then, an overview of definitions and characteristics of creativity is presented in light of the resilience paradigm. Finally, an alternative model, which incorporates the role of personal creativity in processes of resilience, is presented with suggestions for practical applications to therapy work and future research.
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Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, Vol. 3(3) 2008
Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com
© 2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1080/15401380802385228 303
WCMH1540-13831540-1391Journal of Creativity in Mental Health , Vol. 3, No. 3, August 2008: pp. 1–25Journal of Creativity in Mental Health The Role of Creativity in Models
of Resilience: Theoretical Exploration
and Practical Applications
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. MorrellJOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH Einat S. Metzl
Malissa A. Morrell
ABSTRACT. This exploration reviews current conceptualizations of
resilience and creativity, suggesting important links between these two
concepts, and offers a modified model for future research and applied
clinical interventions. First, the authors examine four main models of resil-
ience. Then, an overview of definitions and characteristics of creativity is
presented in light of the resilience paradigm. Finally, an alternative model,
which incorporates the role of personal creativity in processes of resilience,
is presented with suggestions for practical applications to therapy work and
future research.
KEYWORDS. Resilience, creativity, flexibility, divergent thinking
models, Relational-Cultural Theory
In our work as clinicians, we often come across people who have borne
tremendous burdens and yet are able to maintain joy, assimilate their expe-
riences, and go on to accomplish their goals. We may meet a foster child
who is able to connect, trust, and thrive; we witness child abuse victims
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell are Art Therapists and Marriage Family
Therapists working in Los Angeles, California.
Address correspondence to: Einat S. Metzl (Visiting Professor), Department
of Marital and Family Therapy, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive,
Los Angeles, California, 90045 (E-mail: emetzl@yahoo.com).
304 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
who leave us wondering, What is this ability to bounce back from adver-
sity?, What makes it possible?, and How can we support out clients in this
process? Recent publicity of natural and man-made disasters has often
highlighted the work of crisis and trauma response teams, making it more
important than ever for clinicians to know and understand how to best facil-
itate recovery from trauma and loss. Therefore, in this paper, we briefly
review four models of resilience and identify a need to further explore the
power of creativity to enhance resilient adaptation to adverse situations.
People exposed to risks and adversities are sometimes able to endure
their challenges and achieve unexpected outcomes. This ability to perform
ordinary magic, as termed by Masten and Powell (2003), is often referred
to in the social sciences as resiliency or resilience. Resiliency is understood
within the social sciences as “the process of bending and rebounding to
overcome adversity” (Hunter, 2001, p. 172). The number of published arti-
cles about resilience in the last decade has increased dramatically (Friborg,
Barlaug, Martinussen, Rosenvinge, & Hjemdal, 2005), including new
insights on how resilience can be developed contextually and relationally.
Another process, which may be inherently connected with this elasticity
and flexibility, is creativity. For example, creativity has been associated
with divergent thinking (Torrance, 1995), awareness of self, and expressive-
ness (Barron, 1969). An ability to distance oneself from stressors through
active creative engagement is sometimes termed flow (Csikszentmihalyi,
1996), and creativity may be utilized in adapting, adjusting, or problem
solving (Kirton, 1994). Although in few models of resiliency, such as the
resiliency mandala (Wolin & Wolin, 1993), creativity is identified as a
type of strength, and although researchers have repeatedly found that
many of the above-mentioned characteristics play a compensating role
(Luthar, 2003), most research regarding resiliency seems to neglect the role
creativity plays in resilience. Further, the literature has scarce information on
the impact of relational connections on creativity, and the synergy involved
in creativity. Therefore, this paper examines the relationship between
these two constructs, suggesting what role creativity may play in current
models of resilience. As studies of resiliency are often linked to social
policy, prevention, and the promotion of wellness (Brosworth & Earthman,
2002; Luthar, 2003), and because researchers often highlight the need to
use systemic and culturally sensitive approaches when studying resiliency
(Hartling, 2005; Murry, Bynum, Brody, Willert, & Stephens, 2001), this
exploration utilizes contextual perspectives of both concepts and inte-
grates a theoretical framework with practical applications to therapy and
future research.
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 305
RESILIENCE AND CREATIVITY: MODELS
AND CONNECTIONS
Resilience: Definitions and Models in the Social Sciences
Resilience, or resiliency, is defined as “the power or ability to return to
the original form and position after being bent, compressed, or stretched;
elasticity” and also as “the ability to recover readily from illness, depres-
sion, adversity, or the like” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, n.d., ¶ 1).
In the social sciences, research over the last 30 years has demonstrated
resilience to be a multidimensional phenomenon that varies according to
contexts, internal variables, and external changes (Connor & Davidson,
2003; Hunter, 2001; Lothe & Heggen, 2003; Luthar, 2003).
According to Everall, Altrows, and Paulson (2006), models of resilience
have predominantly focused on one of three operational definitions: (a)
resilience as a stable personality trait which protects individuals from the
negative effects of risk and adversity; (b) resilience as a positive outcome,
which is defined by the presence of positive mental health (such as positive
self-concept and self-esteem, academic achievement, success at age-
appropriate developmental tasks, etc.) and the absence of psychopathology,
despite exposure to risk; and (c) resilience as a dynamic process contin-
gent upon interactions between individual and contextual variables that
evolve over time.
The first definition of resilience as a personality trait or stable character-
istic identifies attributes associated with resilience. For example, resilience
is strongly associated with cognitive functioning in the form of IQ, good
problem-solving skills, and strategies (Dumont & Provost, 1999; Friborg
et al., 2005; Smith & Carlson, 1997). Individual problem-solving skills,
coping strategies, and responses are often inspected within the stress model
developed by Lazarus as part of coping research (Haggerty, Sherrod,
Garmezy, & Rutter, 1996; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Lazarus’ model also
provides an explanation for the strong positive correlations found between
resilience and internal locus of control, a sense of purpose, optimistic out-
look, and self-esteem (Dumont & Provost, 1999). Other individual traits
commonly identified as contributors to resilience include social compe-
tence, humor, empathy, flexibility, and easygoing temperament (Everall
et al., 2006).
The second perspective defines resilience as an outcome of positive
adaptation during (and after) exposure to significant adversity. In other
words, resilience is viewed as a specific type of adaptation. This concept
306 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
is the base of longitudinal studies such as Project Competency (Garmezy,
1994; Garmezy & Masten, 1986; Garmezy & Nuechterlein, 1972; Masten &
Powell, 2003). Masten and Powell refer to people’s ability to endure chal-
lenges and achieve outcomes that would be unexpected, given their cir-
cumstances: people who exhibit resiliency by showing average or above
average functioning in academic, behavioral, and social domains and hav-
ing had to overcome significant risk or adversity (exposure to stressful
and traumatic situations). This model distinguishes between four classes
of people who demonstrate varying degrees of adversity and competence:
(a) highly vulnerable (low competence in the presence of low risk), (b)
competent (high competence in the presence of low risk), (c) maladaptive
(low competence in the presence of high risk), and (d) resilient (high com-
petence in the presence of high risk.
The third type of resilience model incorporates elements from the first
and second models and is often attributed to Sonja Luthar. Luthar (2003)
defined resiliency operationally as a “dynamic developmental process
reflecting evidence of positive adaptation despite significant life adversity”
(p. xix). She suggests moving away from viewing resilience as a personal
attribute or individual outcome and focusing instead on the conditions or
processes that interact in a way that resilience can be inferred. Like Masten
and Powell (2003), Luthar’s model assumes that the construct of resil-
ience can never directly be measured but only inferred by the presence of
both a significant risk factor and competence indicators.
Whereas older models focused on identifying resilience, Luthar attempts
to understand when and where the process of resilience takes place. Her
model combines protective and vulnerability factors which mediate and
interact with risk factors, promoting our understanding of the resulting level
of adaptation. A more detailed discussion of these models and the difference
between these and the models presented below can be found in Metzl (2007).
A final model of resilience as referenced by Relational-Cultural Theory
(RCT) moves beyond an individualistic notion of resilience and cites the
“complex, multilayered interpersonal and cultural dynamics that affect
one’s ability to be resilient” (Hartling, 2005, p. 339). According to RCT,
although Western European values traditionally encourage individuals to
develop independence and autonomy, viewing resilience and creativity in
the context of relationships and culture provides implications and practical
applications for mental health providers.
For instance, Hartling (2005) discusses the potential pitfalls of early
research on resiliency and hardiness (or, being unaffected by adversity
or risk) by pointing out that the subjects and their characteristics were
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 307
historically not studied in their larger context. To illustrate, Hartling cites
studies of white, middle-class businessmen (Kobasa 1979; Kobasa &
Puccetti, 1983) and notes that the resilient individuals studied were “the
beneficiaries of a silent system of extensive support comprised of secretar-
ies, wives, mothers, and undervalued service providers . . . who likely made
it possible for these privileged professionals to be hardy” (Hartling,
2005, p. 340). She suggests that by studying these traits in their context of
relationships and culture, one may find practical applications for mental
health providers who wish to foster clients’ resiliency.
Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) suggests that “all growth occurs in
connection, that all people yearn for connection, and that growth-fostering
relationships are created through mutual empathy and mutual empower-
ment” (Jordan & Hartling, n.d., p. 1). To foster resilience, the practitioner of
RCT would consider the contexts of culture and relationships with others.
A goal would be for the therapeutic relationship to shift the focus from
internal locus of control to one of relational empowerment, optimally
resulting in what Jean Baker Miller termed “five good things” (1986, p.2).
These include (a) increased zest, (b) increased ability to take action, (c)
increased clarity, (d) increased sense of worth, and (e) a desire for rela-
tionships beyond that particular relationship (Miller, 1986).
Hartling (2005) suggested the therapist-client relationship can facilitate
growth-fostering relationships through a two-way, bidirectional form of
relating. She suggested the following therapeutic goals for fostering resil-
iency within relationships:
1. Assess the client’s access to relationships that support his or her
resilience, relationships that are responsive to his or her unique indi-
vidual (temperament, intellectual, etc.) characteristics.
2. Help clients identify and expand relationships that create conditions
for growth and resilience.
3. Strengthen clients’ ability to create growth-fostering relationships.
4. Help clients to not just feel good about themselves but also to
believe that they have something to offer others (Jordan, 1994).
5. Help clients feel that they can have an impact on their relationships
(Miller, 2002) and discern when a relationship is no longer moving
toward mutuality and mutual growth.
6. Strengthen clients’ ability to take positive action on behalf of them-
selves, others, and their relationships.
7. Help clients find models of effective action (e.g., mentors, role models,
teachers).
308 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
8. Help clients find opportunities to experience competence and help
them recognize their abilities to be effective.
9. Help clients move toward mutual empathy in relationships where
this is possible.
10. Help clients create good connections rather than exercising strate-
gies of disconnection or power over others. (Hartling, 2005, p. 351)
Resilience, then, can result when a number of dynamics are in play.
As Hartling (2005) notes, in re-examining resiliency, we can better con-
sider the roles of relational empowerment and connection and their
impact on resilience. These connections can be forged through creative
expression and shared creative experiences. Below we explore various
aspects of creativity and its relationship to models of resilience.
Creativity
Although creativity is often discussed in the literature, a scarcity of
work involving the role of creativity in models of resilience exists.
This may be due to the historical place of creativity within psychology
and the problems associated with its systematic research. May (1975),
for example, states that creativity has been treated as a stepchild of
psychology because it is often understood as a regression or neurosis,
whereas Getzels and Jackson (1962) discuss the consequences of
viewing creativity as a regression in the service of the ego (as in Freud,
1949).
Despite these challenges with studying creativity, it has long been
identified as one of the most important human qualities (Dissanayake,
1995; Getzels & Jackson, 1962; May, 1975). Although early attempts to
systematically measure creativity were few, leading psychologists became
engaged in researching “such trait areas as flexibility, initiative, ingenuity,
adaptability, spontaneity, and originality” (Barron, 1969, p. 5) – all traits
associated with problem-solving skills and resilience, although a direct
connection has not often been explored.
Concomitantly, creativity has been recognized as a collaborative
experience. Duffey (2006) posits that “although creativity can be consid-
ered a private, individual experience, it is indeed relational – one that can
be fostered and best enjoyed when shared” (p. 20). In keeping with the
principles of RCT, she adds, “creativity, in this context, is best generated
when differences exist, when gifts and talents are shared, negotiated, and
appreciated” (p. 20).
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 309
Csikszentmihalyi (1996) studied the creative process and the enjoyment of
“designing or discovering something new” (p. 108) regardless of particular
domain or field of interest. That enjoyment, or sensation – which he
termed flow – is composed of nine elements: (a) clear goals, (b) immediate
feedback, (c) balance between challenges and skills, (d) merging of action
and awareness, (e) exclusion of distractions, (f) no worry of failure, (g)
loss of self-consciousness, (h) distorted sense of time, and (i) an autotelic
activity (that is, the activity becomes an end in itself). The concept of flow
thus offers a form of well-being for the creator, supporting creativity as a
protective or promotive factor during adversity.
Csikszentmihalyi (1996) also discusses the characteristics of a creative
personality and states that dualism, or complexity, is inherent to creativity
and allows creative persons to adapt to particular domains within their
chosen field. This complexity is formed by paradoxical traits that coexist
in many creative persons. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1996) the
coexistence of these paradoxical traits does not imply neutrality, but
rather an ability to freely move from one extreme to the other of each
trait. Therefore, this complexity of traits could also be seen as a higher
tolerance for ambiguity or flexible thinking style in those who have the so-
called creative personality (Getzels & Jackson, 1962; Meneely & Portillo,
2005).
Gardner’s (1982) theory of creativity also assumes that creativity is
“best described as the human capacity to regularly solve problems or to
fashion products in a domain in a way that is initially novel but ultimately
acceptable in a culture” (p. 4). In one measure of creativity, the Torrance
Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), creativity is identified by the presence
of two commonly accepted criteria (Barron, 1969; Torrance, 1995): (a)
originality and (b) reality-based or adaptive solutions. Torrance developed
the TTCT to measure divergent thinking (also termed creative thinking),
which is established through four categories: fluency, originality, elabora-
tion, and flexibility. Torrance assumed that people range in their abilities
of each of the above and that the interplay allows one to think in creative
and divergent ways when solving problems.
Creativity in Context
In general, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) defined creativity as “a process
by which a symbolic domain in the culture is changed” (p. 8) or, differ-
ently phrased, “creativity is any act, idea or product that changes an
existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one”
310 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
(p. 28). Csikszentmihalyi’s version of creativity brings about change in
the external world or domain, and it is therefore dependent on the “gate-
keepers” of a specific context at a given time to identify or honor it.
However, there may not be such a marked difference between a person
who is personally creative and solves his or her problems in an insightful
and exceptional manner (or works in a smaller domain), and the works of
a world-recognized creative scientist. In fact, if one assumes that every
person has a creative spirit, as Lowenfeld (1947), Gardner (1982), and
Csikszentmihalyi (1996) suggest, then creativity is meaningful beyond
the question of widespread recognition. Although not all creative acts
necessarily result in a considerable change to culture, creative expression
may generate similar change on a personal and relational scale. If indeed
the difference between creativity acknowledged by society and personal
creativity is more quantitative, Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) definition
could still apply to understanding the role creativity plays in processes of
resilience.
Finally, once a person’s context is taken into account, that context
itself may act as the gatekeeper to which Csikszentmihalyi refers. Gate-
keepers could be people of immediate contact (family, friends, coworkers,
employers) whose acknowledgement of the personal creativity and con-
nection with the person may result in transformation. Such a perspective
of creativity identifies it as an agent of potential change within models of
family therapy, relational therapy, art therapy, systems theory, and with
the process of resiliency as identified above.
CONNECTING CREATIVITY AND RESILIENCE
When one examines the concepts of creativity and resiliency, certain
connections can be inferred. Barron (1969), an author briefly noted earlier,
defined creativity as “the ability to bring something new into existence . . .
Since human beings are not able to make something out of nothing, the
human act of creation always involves a reshaping of given materials,
whether physical or mental” (p. 10). This definition echoes strongly with
those of resiliency, which is mostly defined as bouncing back through a
positive adaptation – a reshaping in response to a given condition such an
adversity or risk (Masten & Powell, 2003).
Guilford’s and Torrance’s concept of divergent thinking, Rogers’
notion of openness, and Maslow’s idea of growth (cited in Sternberg,
1999) are juxtaposed with convergent thinking, defensiveness, and search
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 311
for safety. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) explains this tension between risk and
security in the following way:
Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a con-
servative tendency, made up of instincts for self preservation, self-
aggrandizement, and saving energy, and an expansive tendency
made up of instincts for exploring, enjoying novelty and risk. (p. 11)
Although not categorically mutually exclusive, Getzels and Jackson
(1962) developed theoretical distinctions between extremely intelligent
children (as measured by traditional IQ scores) and extremely creative
children. They suggest that there are important differences between both
groups of children and that individual intelligence and creativity are dif-
ferent attributes. Among their findings are indications that highly creative
children tend to be just as motivated to succeed as the highly intelligent
children, but that their motivations are less in accordance with external def-
initions of success. Similarly, they seem to be more tolerant of ambiguity
than their peers. The creative process for these students utilizes consider-
ably more humor and aggression, more flexible thinking, “intellectual
playfulness” (Getzels & Jackson, 1962, p. 127), and a focus on discovering
(elaboration and innovation) instead of on remembering.
The findings of Getzels and Jackson (1962) support theories of both cre-
ativity and resilience. Motivation to create resembles the concept of flow
and its rewarding sensation of creative processing (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996;
May, 1975). The connections between creativity and higher utilization of
humor and aggression seem compatible with the more psychodynamic
formulations of creativity as either a “regression in the service of the ego”
(Freud, 1949) or a stronger accessibility to one’s preconscious (Kubie,
1958). Finally, flexibility and the ability to withstand ambiguity and cre-
ate alternative goals to a set path seem to be inherent characteristics of
resilience if one is required to adapt and re-bounce.
Personality Traits that may Explain the Connection
Between Creativity and Resilience
Another relevant recent study, conducted by Dollinger, Urban, and James
(2004) found that openness, one of the Big Five personality traits, was linked
strongly to all measures and scales of creativity, and the study suggested that
openness might be a “preferred measure of creative potential” (p. 45). This
might be especially pertinent to the suggested model as openness and
312 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
other Big Five traits (conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and
neuroticism) might also affect resiliency.
Flexibility is the focus of another recent study. Meneely and Portillo
(2005) assumed that the difference between creativity as it is manifested
in art or science depends on how introspective or externally focused the
process is. The researchers suggest “flexibility is central to creative adap-
tation, where transformation occurs in both the self and the domain”
(Meneely & Portillo, 2005, p. 156). They developed the concept of
creative adaptation, based on the writings of Cohen and Ambrose (1999),
which includes flexibility in thinking, responsiveness to environment
(self-adaptation), and transformation and evaluation of the environment
(domain adaptation). Meneely and Portillo (2005) found that flexibility
between cognitive styles is “significantly correlated to the creative per-
sonality” (p.163). Their model connects flexibility to personality, and
thus to creativity as a trait. Therefore, creative adaptation is thought to be
an outcome of flexibility, and the specific ways in which creativity mani-
fests in performance are determined by the manner in which the flexible
thinking is mediated by the creative personality and takes on different
manifestations. This concept of creative adaptation seems theoretically
close to that of resiliency: It is a type of adaptation that inspires function-
ing in a uniquely positive manner (novelty) and yet in a manner that takes
the environment and specific context into account.
The centrality of flexibility to creative adaptation and to creative perfor-
mance can be linked to the original definition of resiliency as the capacity
to bounce back to average or above-average functioning (Luthar, 2003).
The findings of Meneely and Portillo (2005) suggest a strong link
between flexibility in cognitive styles and creative performance and sug-
gest that such flexible thinking might be a manifestation of creative per-
sonality. Similarly, flexible (divergent) thinking is thought to predict
resilient personality. Because divergent thinking is seen as definitive quality
of personal creativity (Goff & Torrance, 2002; Torrance, 1995) this means
that creativity, as measured through divergent thinking, might predict
resiliency.
Linking resiliency and creativity through flexible thinking is in line with
the notion of paradoxical traits. As explored earlier, paradoxical traits – i.e.,
being at the same time optimistic and reality-bound, logical and naïve,
introverted and extroverted – were suggested as definitive for the creative
personality (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Gardner, 1982). In the case of resil-
iency, a similar paradoxical capacity seems to play center stage as the resil-
ient person is both flexible in adapting to a given situation (bouncing back)
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 313
while maintaining a sense of core self, a sense of well-being, optimism,
self-efficacy. Flexible thinking might explain the ability to shift between
states and negotiate these paradoxical aspects of self in the process of
resilience as well as allow for manifestation of creativity.
Theoretical Framework for Incorporating Creativity
into Models of Resilience
Although both resiliency and creativity are complex phenomena that
defy simplified definitions (Barron, 1969; May, 1975), these theoretical
connections may serve as the basis for identifying and studying the inter-
action between the two as well as utilizing these concepts in therapeutic
work. If one accepts creativity as a trait linked to divergent thinking
(novel, appropriate solutions) and uses Csikszentmihalyi’s criterion of
considerable change in a domain, resiliency can be viewed as creativity
manifested in one’s personal domain.
Current models of resiliency do not seem to have explored the role of cre-
ativity sufficiently. Some studies of resiliency identify creativity as an effec-
tive tool to enhance resiliency in intervention programs (Bickley-Green &
Phillips, 2003; Mapp & Koch, 2004) through utilizing creative tools to
explore resilience (Graziano, 2004). Creativity is even defined as one of
the seven types of resiliency by Wolin and Wolin (1993). However, these
studies typically utilize only qualitative research methods and do not
attempt to test the role of creativity within a generalizable model of resil-
ience. Despite the intriguing similarities and theoretical connections, too
little attention has been given to the unique role that creativity can play in
models of resilience. The model presented here (see Figure 1) integrates
the two pertinent concepts of resilience and creativity under one general
model in which creativity, as a trait, plays a role within the conceptualiza-
tion of resilience as a multifactor process.
FIGURE 1. Visual Representation of Suggested Model for Inquiry.
Exposure to
Adversity
Contextual
factors
(Environmental
resources /
moderators)
Adjustment level
(Life satisfaction,
reduced clinical
stress, etc.)
Personality
(Big Five as
mediator)
Creativity
(Creative
thinking)
314 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
Exploring the role that creativity plays within general models of resil-
ience offers two potential benefits. First, considering this neglected (yet
important) contributor to the process of resilience has theoretical and
pragmatic implementations. Second, furthering the understanding we cur-
rently have as to the manifestation of creativity in everyday life, beyond
notable achievements in art or science, can lead to a variety of practical
applications for both clinicians and researchers.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR THERAPY
AND RESEARCH
So, how can therapists nurture resilience in victims of child sexual
abuse? How do the terms originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration
help us understand and assist victims of PTSD resulting from combat? Are
efforts to increase creativity (and, as has been suggested, a related increase
in resiliency) better implemented before a crisis occurs, or is this some-
thing that clinicians can purposefully infuse in their therapeutic work?
Accepting resilience as a relational, multifaceted, and contextual process
rather than an independent attribute or an outcome creates a framework
for strength-based research and interventions. The question of resilience
then shifts from a study of those few people who manifest the trait of resil-
ience to understanding which circumstances enable people – all people – to
display and benefit from resilience in their lives. We can assist others to
increase their resilience as “an adaptive process whereby an individual will-
ingly makes use of internal and external resources to overcome adversity”
(Everall et al., 2006, p. 462).
Promoting resilience is therefore closely linked to effective therapy. As
suggested, a therapy process in which individuals are empowered to utilize
available resources and form growth-fostering relationships, and in which
cultural implications are considered, is likely to promote resilience (Hartling,
2005; Hunter, 2001). Creativity, defined here as the human ability to
think in a less linear, more elastic fashion (Sternberg, 1999) is offered as a
contributor, a tool, for such culturally sensitive dialogue, and could support
clinical work.
The engagement in creative processes, collaborative connections, or
the production of creative objects may be used to promote resilience in
expressive therapy (Carr & Vandiver, 2003; Gonzalez-Dolginko, 2002).
Sassen, Spencer, and Curtin (2005) utilized art techniques to facilitate
increased connections among multiethnic groups of urban girls. Art allowed
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 315
group members with complex relational histories to learn about growth-
fostering relationships, without relying on sophisticated verbal abilities.
The interactive nature of the art projects allowed interpersonal disconnec-
tions to be explored and understood, and allowed connections to be cele-
brated through verbal language and through the creative process.
Therapists who use expressive techniques assess clients’ needs and form
therapeutic relationships that explicitly utilize internal imagery, both verbal
and nonverbal. Fostering the relationship with both therapist and an artistic
medium helps the client to expand relational communication skills in a cul-
turally sensitive setting. At the same time, the clients are able to grow and
become empowered by their ability to connect through their creativity and
the co-creation of expressive products. They have something to offer (Jordan,
1994); may continuously revisit, change, and recreate their processes via art
based and verbal dialogue and connection; and may establish a model of
effective engaging that is reinforcing in its process (Csikzsentmihaly, 1996)
as well as its product. This symbolically and concretely connects the client
to his or her own feelings, to the therapist, and to art-making.
As noted earlier, the effective use of art therapy with at-risk and trau-
matized clients has been presented after natural disasters or exposure to
societal and personal trauma (i.e., Bickley-Green & Phillips, 2003; Mapp &
Koch, 2004). It is interesting that in spite of this growing understanding,
limited attempts have been made to actively incorporate creativity into the
general model of resilience.
The intent of this article, beyond supporting the use of expressive and
artistic tools to foster resilience within a relational context, is to suggest
that creativity could be an inherent predictor and facilitator of resilience.
The practicing psychotherapist or counselor can actively embrace divergent
thinking and nonlinear, creative skill-building tools as facilitators of heal-
ing. The use of reframing clinical problems; encouraging understanding of
ambiguity and complexity; encouraging exploration of clients’ expressive,
artistic, or playful skills; and examining multiple solutions and outcomes
could all promote resilience through divergent thinking in therapy. Practitio-
ners may utilize these concepts of resiliency and creativity in many new
ways. For example, they could identify creative abilities (i.e., using the
Torrance Test of Creative Thinking developed by Goff and Torrance, 2002),
such as flexibility, originality, fluency, and elaboration, to set strength-
based goals and assessments of skills in need of development.
Future research could examine whether the process of creative engage-
ment in a specific modality or intervention is more beneficial than others,
and whether the therapist’s own creative thinking and creative interventions
316 JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY IN MENTAL HEALTH
predict client’s adaptation and healing processes. Also, resiliency and cre-
ativity could be further explored in different contexts and cultures by
utilizing models such as RCT (Hartling, 2005) in order to understand the
role creativity plays in promoting resilience in individualistic versus rela-
tional systems.
SUMMARY
This article explores the link between resilience and creativity. At the
beginning of this article two definitions for resilience were introduced.
The first focused on the ability of an object to return to its original form
after being bent, compressed, or stretched. The second was the ability of a
person to recover readily from adversity. Whereas resilience has been
viewed mostly within the context of the second definition, an exploration
of the role that creative thinking plays in resilience seems to connect both
of these definitions and offer practical applications for the creativity-
minded practitioner and researcher alike.
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... In acknowledging the potential future trajectory of a child possessing these factors while giving respect to their culture, this author became interested in investigating how a creative music group could enhance quality of life and "reshap[e] chaos and furnish hope in the community," (Ragland & Apprey, 1974, p. 147). This author was inspired by the writing of Metzl and Morrell (2008), who illuminated parallels between creativity and resiliency. This work suggested that if the personality traits of tolerating ambiguity and flexibility are fostered in creative experiences, resiliency might develop over time as it has been linked to these particular traits (Metzl & Morrell, 2008). ...
... This author was inspired by the writing of Metzl and Morrell (2008), who illuminated parallels between creativity and resiliency. This work suggested that if the personality traits of tolerating ambiguity and flexibility are fostered in creative experiences, resiliency might develop over time as it has been linked to these particular traits (Metzl & Morrell, 2008). Increased levels in creativity have also been linked to flexibility, openness, courage, and the ability to adjust positively to various life circumstances (Carson, 2010;Richards, 2007;Runco, 2007). ...
... Furthermore, the authors stated that more highly developed divergent thinking abilities could allow for greater utilization of a variety of raw materials. Metzl and Morrell (2008) examined similarities between creativity and resiliency in their article for the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health . The authors addressed four varying views of resilience. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The purpose of this community engagement capstone thesis project is to report on a seven-week music group facilitated to encourage creative processes among fourth graders at an after-school Program, and offer recommendations for implementing future programs. This thesis reviews relevant literature in order to suggest the importance of creative thinking skills and the potential future benefits of developing divergent thought processes. Detailed project reports are provided to illuminate session plans, observations, and significant events throughout the course of the group. Furthermore, pertinent themes regarding the group’s process are discussed in addition to reviewing pre-test and post-test data. Findings reflect that creative growth resulted from safe and predictable experiences within music. Comfort and safety led to group members’ growth in flexibility, confidence, bravery, and experiencing positive mood states. Finally, suggestions are made for the implementation of creative music groups in schools to encourage self-expression, self-awareness, and divergent thought processes.
... Wolin and Wolin [41] consider humor and creativity as key capacities that allow positive, fun and even beautiful aspects to be found in the midst of adversity and chaos, and which become evident especially once adversity has been overcome. Moreover, for Metzl and Morrel [25], creativity can be seen as a personality trait of resilient people, and therefore plays a fundamental role in the conceptualization of resilience as a multifactorial process. For example, intellectual curiosity, high levels of commitment, self-confidence and emotional involvement, attraction to complexity and difference are some of the main personality traits that resilient and creative people may share [25,26,29]. ...
... Moreover, for Metzl and Morrel [25], creativity can be seen as a personality trait of resilient people, and therefore plays a fundamental role in the conceptualization of resilience as a multifactorial process. For example, intellectual curiosity, high levels of commitment, self-confidence and emotional involvement, attraction to complexity and difference are some of the main personality traits that resilient and creative people may share [25,26,29]. ...
... Creativity has also been considered a predictor and as a factor that modulates between emotional and identity aspects and resilience [25,43]. In this sense, a recent study [43] of secondary school students in China showed not only the existence of positive, moderately significant correlation between positive emotions, creativity and resilience, but also that creativity acts as a mediating variable between these positive emotions and the capacity of students to be resilient when learning a third language; that is, when students experience emotions, for example those linked to feeling good and happy, they perceive and face learning contexts with a creative and flexible perspective. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article presents and describes an extracurricular enrichment intervention program to promote the development of resilient factors, aimed at teenagers with high abilities from vulnerable social contexts. Also, its effects on aspects related to creativity and resilience are explored. This program proposes a series of creative and meaningful activities so that students can explore, experiment, express their emotions and analytically contrast their own identity characteristics with their surrounding reality. A comparative case study was carried out with a mixed methodological approach. Three students (2 men and 1 woman) with high abilities of 13 and 14 years of age, who attended a public middle school located in a disadvantaged sector of the Mexican capital, participated. The program was developed over nine sessions (90 min each), over two months. The quantitative analysis did not show significant differences in the creativity and resilience factors. However, the qualitative analysis of the tasks and products created by the participants has provided positive evidence about the program's contribution to enhance their self-knowledge and coping skills taking in account the adversities of their family, school and social context.
... This stabilizing characteristic is strongly related to cognitive functions, such as an excellent problem-solving ability (Dumont and Provost, 1999;Aburn et al., 2016). Besides, many researchers have found that creativity is closely related to emotional resilience (Runco and Richards, 1998;Metzl and Morrell, 2008;Metzl, 2009); Wolin and Wolin (1993) suggested that creativity is a type of resilience. Resilient thinking, such as creative thinking, contributes to solving problems in unique ways with the existing resources (Hartling, 2005). ...
... This study showed a similar result that emotional resilience was positively correlated with teenagers' ideational behavior. To explain the link between creativity and resilience, Metzl and Morrell (2008) put forward a model suggesting that both creative thinking and creative personality are conducive for recovering from adversity. Our research further expands this model by introducing creative ideational behavior. ...
Article
Full-text available
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has not only resulted in immeasurable life and property losses worldwide but has also impacted individuals’ development, especially teenagers. After the COVID-19 pandemic, individual rumination as an important cognitive process should be given more attention because of its close associations with physical and mental health. Previous studies have shown that creativity as an antecedent variable can predict people’s mental health or adaptation. However, few studies have focused on the relationship between creativity and individual cognitive rumination after traumatic events, and the mechanism underlying this relationship remains unclear. By using the Runco Ideational Behavior Scale (RIBS), the Event Related Rumination Inventory, and the Questionnaire of Adolescent Emotional Resilience, the current study explored the relationship between creativity and intrusive rumination among 1488 Chinese teenagers during the COVID-19 pandemic and analyzed the moderating effect of emotional resilience on the relationship. The results showed that creativity, as assessed by the RIBS, was positively related to teenagers’ intrusive rumination, which implied that a higher level of creative performance could predict more intrusive rumination. Moreover, emotional resilience acted as a moderator in the relationship between creativity and intrusive rumination; the correlation was stronger when emotional resilience was low. These findings provide more evidence of the relationship between creativity and mental health and show the effect of this traumatic event on teenagers.
... efficacy and optimism, can be found, formed and experienced through creative activities [13]. Csikszentmihalyi also makes a connection between creativity and being in 'flow', the feeling of being in the moment, experiencing enjoyment and intensive concentration [7]. ...
... Flow theory by Csikszentmihalyi suggests that taking part in creative activities facilitate being in a flow state [7], which enhances mental wellbeing [11]. Additionally, frameworks linking creativity with resilience are discussed in the Introduction of this paper [13]. Moreover, Camic and colleagues endeavoured to develop a theoretical understanding of how the process of viewing and making art impacts people with dementia and their caregivers in the public art gallery context using the grounded theory approach [35]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective We aimed to assess and synthesise the current state of quantitative and qualitative research concerning creative arts interventions for older informal caregivers of people with neurological conditions. Methods A systematic search was employed to identify studies that examined creative arts interventions for older informal caregivers, which were synthesised in this integrative review. We searched the following databases: MEDLINE, PubMed, EBSCO, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. We also backwards searched references of all relevant studies and inspected trials registers. Results Of the 516 studies identified, 17 were included: one was quantitative, nine were qualitative and seven used mixed methods. All included quantitative studies were pilot or feasibility studies employing pre- and post-test design with small sample sizes. Studies varied in relation to the type of creative intervention and evaluation methods, which precluded meta-analysis. Large effect sizes were detected in wellbeing measures following singing and art interventions. The qualitative synthesis highlighted that interventions created space for caregivers to make sense of, accept and adapt to their identity as a caregiver. Personal developments, such as learning new skills, were viewed positively by caregivers as well as welcoming the opportunity to gain cognitive and behavioural skills, and having opportunities to unload emotions in a safe space were important to caregivers. Group creative interventions were particularly helpful in creating social connections with their care-recipients and other caregivers. Conclusions The current review revealed all creative interventions focused on caregivers of people living with dementia; subsequently, this identified gaps in the evidence of creative interventions for informal caregivers of other neurological conditions. There are encouraging preliminary data on music and art interventions, however, little data exists on other art forms, e.g., drama, dance. Creative interventions may appeal to many caregivers, offering a range of psycho-social benefits. The findings of the current review open the way for future research to develop appropriate and creative arts programmes and to test their efficacy with robust tools.
... Schools have an important role in building and developing students' personal resilience because resilient students will play a role in disaster mitigation. Many strategies can be done by schools to provide material that supports students' readiness in facing disasters (Metzl & Morrell, 2014). ...
... Based on the results of this study further research is needed on the relationship between families, schools, and communities in building student resilience as capital to build school resilience. According to Everall, Altrows, & Paulson (2006), models of resilience have predominantly focused on one of three operational definitions: resilience as a stable personality trait which protects individuals from the negative effects of risk and adversity; resilience as a positive outcome, which is defined by the presence of positive mental health such as positive self-concept and self-esteem, academic achievement, success at age-appropriate developmental tasks, etc.) and the absence of psychopathology, despite exposure to risk; and resilience as a dynamic process contingent upon interactions between individual and contextual variables that evolve (Metzl & Morrell, 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Resilience is needed by students who live in disaster-prone areas. With strong resilience, students can implement disaster mitigation. This study aims to describe the profile of students' resilience and the strategies carried out by students in strengthening personal resilience. The mixed method research approach was conducted on a research population of SMA/SMK in Lombok Regency, specifically North Lombok, East Lombok, and West Lombok. The respondents were 779 people from 10 schools in disaster-prone areas determined by the Slovin formula. Student resilience profiles were explored according to Reivich and Shatte. Data on how teachers increase students’ resilience were obtained from a focus group discussion (FGD) with 20 teachers from 10 schools. The results of the research prove that the personal resilience profile of students in Lombok from the seven aspects is still not optimal, which is not enough to form resilience personalities (less than 60%). This study affirms that personal resilience is essential in building school resilience to provide a massive contribution to education and disaster mitigation. Regarding recommendations for schools to increase student resilience, it can be done by increasing resilience resources, strengthening social support, having resilient teachers, building resilient school, all aspects of which must work systemically and synergistically.
... In a similar vein, research has identified associations between creativity and building resilience, particularly as a response to adversity (Metzl and Morrell, 2008;Metzl, 2009); as an important component of responding to disasters (Kendra and Wachtendorf, 2003); and as a facilitative process in achieving post-traumatic growth (Forgeard, 2013). Psychological resilience is mental armor against crises, resulting in successful adaptation to the current circumstance (Fletcher and Sarkar, 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an abrupt change in routines and livelihoods all around the world. This public health crisis amplified a number of systemic inequalities that led to populations needing to grapple with universally difficult truths. Yet some individuals, firms, and countries displayed resilient and creative responses in coping with pressing demands on healthcare and basic sanity. Past work has suggested that engaging in creative acts can be an adaptive response to a changing environment. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to describe how entities at the personal, community, and national levels cultivated and expressed creativity in an effort to make meaning during COVID-19. By overlaying the Four C model of creativity on such responses, we aim to (a) to connect mini, little, Pro, and Big creative behaviors with our attempts to make meaning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and (b) to suggest how engaging in creative expression can be used to guard against the adverse consequences of this outbreak. Acknowledging that this time has been and continues to be distressing and filled with uncertainty, we propose some ways of making sense of current events by applying original thinking across domains. Further, we propose how engaging in creativity can serve to buffer against the negative effects of living through the pandemic.
... These skills devoted to anticipating, recognizing and responding to adverse or unexpected events are required for an organization to build resilience, defined as the ability to manage unexpected events or to respond, monitor, learn and anticipate (Hollnagel and Woods, 2006;Weick and Sutcliffe, 2007). Psychologists have also underlined the role of creativity in resilience as an effective tool for adaptation, adjustment and problem-solving by individuals when faced with adverse events (Metzl and Morrel, 2008). In critical situations, experts may have to overcome a lack of predefined procedures. ...
Article
Decision-making during critical outbreak management may require standard strategies, but also more creative ones. Our goal was to characterize the expert decision processes that take place during critical situations, where rule-based strategies and usual procedures cannot be satisfactorily applied. More specifically, we focused on the strategies experts use to deal with epidemiological problems, depending on the complexity of the situation. To this end, we carried out a simulated outbreak alert, to place two experts in a situation of epidemiological problem management, based on usual practice but also conducive to implementing creative solutions. To analyze the data, we considered not only the relevance of the solutions proposed by the experts, but also the four creativity criteria defined by Torrance (fluency, flexibility, elaboration and originality). Results allowed us to identify similarities but also differences between the solutions proposed by the experts, depending on their level of experience in this area.
... In one report, involvement with the project appears to have had a positive influence on how a family responded to and supported a dying family member. By enabling these discussions, the intervention may have contributed to facilitating greater psychological preparation for and resilience to death, dying, and loss among families (Metzl et al., 2008), lessening the risk of negative developmental outcomes (Kaplow et al., 2010;Stikkelbroek et al., 2016), and complex bereavement (Wegleitner et al., 2015). ...
Article
Purpose Experiencing bereavement in childhood can cause profound changes to developmental trajectories. This paper aims to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a public health intervention in schools to encourage pupils aged 12-15 years to independently explore ideas of death, dying, loss and end of life care in a structured and creative format. Design/methodology/approach A co-produced storytelling intervention was implemented in an independent school in Norwich, UK. Pupils wrote up to 1,000 words in response to the title, “I Wish We’d Spoken Earlier”. Their participation was voluntary and extra-curricular. Stakeholder feedback was used in addition to the submissions as a measure of acceptability, appropriateness, adoption and feasibility. Findings In total, 24 entries were submitted. Pupils demonstrated their ability to engage thoughtfully and creatively with the subject matter. Feasibility for the storytelling intervention was demonstrated. Importantly, the intervention also prompted family conversations around preferences and wishes for end of life care. Research limitations/implications To determine whether the intervention has psychological and social benefits will require further study. Practical implications Educational settings can be considered as anchor institutions to support a public health approach to end of life care. Originality/value The positive response from all stakeholders in delivering and supporting the intervention indicates that schools are a community asset that could be further empowered to support children and families affected by death, dying and loss.
Chapter
Societies rely on first responders to save lives. What happens when the wellbeing of these crisis workers is compromised by daily exposure to crisis and trauma? This chapter describes a developed and tested arts-based intervention aimed at mitigating the trauma response through positive resource reinforcement. Specifically designed to be used in a non-clinical setting, the intervention features the drawing of a mandala capturing images and symbols of safety and was tested to ascertain the efficacy of its ability to increase positive affect, decrease negative affect, and reinforce connections to positive resources in participants.
Book
The goal of this handbook is to provide the most comprehensive, definitive, and authoritative single-volume review available in the field of creativity. The book contains twenty-two chapters covering a wide range of issues and topics in the field of creativity, all written by distinguished leaders in the field. The volume is divided into six parts. The introduction sets out the major themes and reviews the history of thinking about creativity. Subsequent parts deal with methods, origins, self and environment, special topics and conclusions. All educated readers with an interest in creative thinking will find this volume to be accessible and engrossing.
Article
Studied personality as a conditioner of the effects of stressful life events on illness onset. Two groups of middle- and upper-level 40-49 yr old executives had comparably high degrees of stressful life events in the previous 3 yrs, as measured by the Schedule of Recent Events. One group of 86 Ss suffered high stress without falling ill, whereas the other group of 75 Ss reported becoming sick after their encounter with stressful life events. Illness was measured by the Seriousness of Illness Survey (A. R. Wyler et al 1970). Discriminant function analysis, run on half of the Ss in each group and cross-validated on the remaining cases, supported the prediction that high stress/low illness executives show, by comparison with high stress/high illness executives, more hardiness, that is, have a stronger commitment to self, an attitude of vigorousness toward the environment, a sense of meaningfulness, and an internal locus of control. (43 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Book
Childhood resilience is the phenomenon of positive adaptation despite significant life adversities. While interest in resilience has burgeoned in recent years, considerable uncertainty remains regarding what research has revealed about this phenomenon. Integrated in this book are contributions from leading scientists who have studied children's adjustment across risks common in contemporary society. Chapters in the first half of the book focus on risks emanating from the family, and in the second half, on risks stemming from the wider community. The concluding chapter integrates the evidence presented to determine considerations for future research, and directions for interventions and social policies.
Article
This study examined personality, social assets, and perceived social support as moderators of the effects of stressful life events on illness onset. In a group of 170 middle and upper level executives, personality hardiness and stressful life events consistently influenced illness scores, the former serving to lower symptomatology, the latter to increase it. Perceived boss support had its predicted positive effect. Executives under high stress who perceived support from their supervisors had lower illness scores than those without support. Perceived family support, on the other hand, showed a negative effect on health when reported by those low in hardiness. Finally, social assets made no significant impact on health status. These results underscore the value of differentiating between kinds of social resources, and of monitoring the effects of two or more stress-resistance resources in a single study.
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In a provocative discussion of the sources of human creativity, Gardner explores all aspects of the subject, from the young childs ability to learn a new song through Mozarts conceiving a complete symphony.