Provoking the Muse

Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement … for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. — Max Beckmann

From a psychoanalytic perspective, the therapist’s role is to provide a comfortable, safe, and non-judgmental environment for free association to take place while allowing the client to experience multifarious epiphanies. The assumption is that solutions will follow naturally from any emergent realizations. Another way to conceptualize this process is something I call the expectorant effect (i.e., guaifenesin). Eliciting information via psychoanalysis should “loosen” repressed or suppressed feelings by “thinning the mucus” of resistance. However, once the dislodging of psychological constipation has commenced, psychoanalysis often outsources long-term problem solving by assuming the client has adequate internal resources for eventual self-correction.

With more invasive forms of therapeutic interaction (e.g., Cognitive Behavior Therapy, systematic desensitization), the therapist should act as a strategic interventionist while incorporating salutogenic priming to stimulate, without falsely influencing, cognitive processing. Associative learning implies associative memory; likewise, maladaptive ways of thinking can be unlearned by establishing new associations. As with the sequential domino effect, one conceptual understanding can innervate a chain reaction that results in a surge of awareness on many levels (cascading luminescence). Information and memories that are dysfunctionally internalized may require extensive exposure to critical thinking skills for promoting adaptive reflectiveness, evidence-based confidence, and future resilience. Furthermore, this is why I believe proficient psychotherapists must also be competent philosophers and teachers. It’s not what you think but how you think that matters for the manifestation of operative change to occur. Teaching someone how to reason more clearly is a vital component for preventing maladaptive emotional and behavioral relapse.

I would submit that effective psychotherapy should be imbued with creativity, but not in a namby-pamby, platitudinous, non-empirical, let’s-break-out-the-crayons-and-have-some-wholesome-fun sense. Being inventive requires the therapist to draw from a large reservoir of therapeutic techniques and educational material to supply the client with sufficient “weapons” for encountering future psychosocial skirmishes. The goal of psychotherapy shouldn’t be to simply make the client feel better; rather, it should provide a user-friendly methodology that allows the client to become their own adjudicator when navigating the perils of circumstance via self-regulation. How this is achieved is less significant than how it is assimilated and actively reproduced. The mechanisms of therapy matter, but effective mechanisms can become ephemeral pacifiers if a platform of persisting continuity cannot be established. What makes sense during a clinical session should also work well in other contexts without the oversight of a clinician. Any epistemic proposition or treatment intervention should be robust enough to withstand peer-reviewed field testing and reliable results over extended periods of time. Subsequently, the creativity of the client is personified as they eventually customize therapeutic information for optimum utilization and self-assured independence. Nevertheless, the internal spectrum of ingenuity sometimes requires a supportive source of inspiration.