“I want to keep my sufferings. They are part of me and my art.” Painter Edvard Munch
“I had the feeling therapy was good for my writing very early on.” Filmmaker Agnes Jaoui
“This is a common concern. Many artists and writers believe that turmoil, suffering, and extremes in emotional experience are integral not only to the human condition but to their abilities as artists.”
She adds that many fear that “psychiatric treatment will transform them into normal, well-adjusted, dampened, and bloodless souls — unable, or unmotivated, to write, paint, or compose.”
There are many mental health professionals and patients raising concerns that psychotropic medications may often be harmful in ways that impede creative thought and energy.
Jamison also comments, “There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that, compared to ‘normal’ individuals, artists, writers, and creative people in general, are both psychologically ‘sicker’ — that is, they score higher on a wide variety of measures of psychopathology — and psychologically healthier (for example, they show quite elevated scores on measures of self-confidence and ego strength).”
Of course, therapy is not only for presumed disorders – it can be counseling for greater self-awareness. And the experience depends as much on the expertise and personality of the therapist as the form of psychotherapy they most use.
Another issue is diagnosis.
In his article Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children (and related book), James T. Webb, Ph.D. notes, “Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being mis-diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other health care professionals” as having ADHD, OCD, Mood Disorders and other conditions.
He says, “These common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”
The values of therapy for creative people can include dealing with real mental health problems, and also increased self-awareness and understanding of other people, all of which can be valuable for anyone, but particularly for enhancing creative expression.
Woody Allen has had decades of therapy, and noted, “People used to say, You’re using psychoanalysis as a crutch. And I would say, Yes. You’re hitting it exactly on the nose. I’m using it as a crutch.”
“I used to call therapy my part-time job.” Actor Michelle Pfeiffer
Psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT, works with many screenwriters, and says his clients “have the usual issues everyone has, except they’re struggling in one of the most difficult, arbitrary, and maddening businesses on the planet.”
[From article: Therapist to the Hollywood Stars.]
In our interview several years ago, actor Heather Graham made a thoughtful summary of why she chose to use therapy:
“Acting is telling a story, and you’re part of telling that story… in some ways therapy helps more than acting class. You realize why you operate in certain ways.”
And that can help any of us be more authentic, aware, alive – and creative.