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Psychologist Cheryl Arutt on Mental Health and Creativity

Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, specializing in trauma recovery, fertility and creative artist issues.

In our recent interview, she talked about a number of topics that affect actors and other creative people.

“Bad boy” images and acting-out

Actors and actresses with “bad boy” or “troubled” images, or problems with issues of anger and acting out, have included Christian Bale, Shia Labeouf and many other talented performers.

Dr. Arutt notes this kind of behavior is based on underlying emotional challenges, and that people (not just actors and performers) “Aren’t doing it to have fun.”

“Life without pain isn’t real at all.”

Shia LaBeouf  started acting at age 12 to support his mother when his heroin-addicted father abandoned the family. LaBeouf has said he was subjected to verbal and mental abuse by his father, who once pointed a gun at him during a Vietnam War flashback.

From my earlier post Traumatic Childhood, Creative Adult

A difficult childhood and trauma

Actor William H. Macy once commented, “Nobody became an actor because he had a good childhood.”

Dr. Arutt thinks that actors and other artists who are willing, in their creative work, to delve into the really “messy” feelings of being human (shame, devastations, disappointments, betrayals, traumas and more), probably have a personal relationship with those feelings.

The Shadow Self

Dr. Arutt also talked about the concept of the Shadow Self that psychologist Carl Jung addressed in his therapy and writings.

She notes that our emotional health and balance, perhaps especially for artists, may depend on having at least some understanding and acceptance of the darker sides of ourselves – and this also gives us more power to make choices rather than just react to life unconsciously.

Also see my earlier post Dancing With Our Shadow to Develop Creativity.

Creativity and mental health

This is a favorite topic for both of us. Dr. Arutt talks about the fears many artists have about treating their depression, anxiety or other challenges, and then numbing or losing their creativity.

She points out that certain forms of psychotherapy and techniques such as EMDR can be very effective in helping creative people get past the emotional pains which interfere with their creativity.

And she notes that sometimes medication can be helpful for disruptive symptoms, when prescribed by a medication specialist: a knowledgeable psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist. Unfortunately, many people are prescribed psychiatric medications by their general physician who may not be informed or trained well enough about this class of medications, resulting in people getting drug treatment that interferes rather than helps them.

Emotional self-regulation

Dr. Arutt gave a TEDx presentation on “That Good Feeling of Control” and notes the title comes from TV host Fred Rogers who wanted to teach kids how to deal with the “mad” they felt inside, and be able to decide what to do with these kinds of strong feelings.

What he was talking about was self-regulation, she notes, and affect regulation that can help us as adults, too.

She thinks most forms of mental illness “can be traced to some form of dysregulation, either over-control or under-control.”

You can view the video in the post “Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression.”

Read about more topics in our longer interview – and hear an audio excerpt from it at:

Psychologist Cheryl Arutt on Mental Health and Creative People.


Psychologist Cheryl Arutt on Mental Health and Creativity

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Psychologist Cheryl Arutt on Mental Health and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Dec 2012
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