Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, Vol. 3(3) 2008
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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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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
Einat S. Metzl and Malissa A. Morrell 305
RESILIENCE AND CREATIVITY: MODELS
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,
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.
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,
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,
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
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
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.
(Big Five as
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
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
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-
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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