Can the creative process produce positive psychological change?

We all know the stories of artists who created great work but lived less than satisfying lives. Art history is filled with artists who suffered from self-destructive creative and life processes.

I was aware of these dangers when I started an artistic pursuit.  The questions I asked were; “How do I avoid the fate of the artists that I was learning about?” “Could I turn art-making into a vehicle for psychological self-discovery that leads to a fuller and more satisfying life?” “Was this art or art therapy or both?”

My unique experience over my lifetime had caused me to ask these questions.   In my early 30’s I recognized that my father’s mental illness and alcoholism had a dramatic impact on my psychology and emotional health.  I have spent the last 25 years on a path of self-discovery and healing with the help of many talented, insightful and generous teachers.  My natural instincts and personality have led me to teachers who have worked in the blurred lines between life, creative process and therapy.  It was a natural place for my art practice — exploring the creative process, artmaking, and its effect on my psychology, my emotions and ultimately the choices I make in life.

The journey has not always been easy.  I “broke” myself after moving too quickly and finding myself overwhelmed by the demons of my childhood. I frightened and risked alienating myself from those closest to me by regurgitating the past. I also produced some pretty bad art as I struggled to find tools and techniques to turn the personal to the universal.

The challenges have been worth the risk. In countless ways, I have been changed for the better by the 25 years of creative process.  I am more outgoing and confident, more connected to those around me, and more likely to make decisions that are freed from the patterns of the past.

I am grateful to have found a receptive community for my work. There are many artists who have proceeded me in using creative process as a psychological tool. The works and personal journeys of Charlie Chaplin,  John Cage,  Marina Abramovic, Freud, Jung, and others have created an environment where the melding of personal psychology, creative process, and art now has a place in the mainstream. There are now organized groups of people who explore and develop creative process as a healing tool.  I was even surprised to find there was a term to describe my work — therapeutic photography — before I knew what to call it myself.

Blurring the line between the art, creative process and my life is about continuous learning. Learning about art making, learning about the creative process, learning about myself, and, step by step, learning what it really means to be free and at peace.