A recent paper presented at the Australian Psychology Society (APS) national conference has prompted local discussion regarding the potential to regard ‘harnessing creativity’ as a therapeutic option in bipolar disorder.
The issue is receiving attention after Swinburne University of Technology’s head of Psychology Sciences and Statistics Professor Greg Murray presented research indicating that harnessing the creativity of people suffering with bipolar disorder may lead to a more holistic and beneficial treatment approach.
Centre for Clinical Intervention (CCI) special clinical psychologist Laura Smith says in WA the issue is yet to be fully addressed.
“It is always a topic of conversation when clients come in for treatment of bipolar disorder,” Ms Smith says.
“In the last overview, there were about 20,000 people in Perth diagnosed with bipolar. And that’s not including the families, which need help too.”
Ms Smith heads the CCI Behavioural Group Treatment Program in the North Metro Health Service, which offers group therapy, or “psycho-social therapy”, as an adjunct treatment to medication.
She says, in addition to medication, harnessing creativity for bipolar patients needs much more focus.
“Receiving medication long-term has impacts that are difficult to manage in terms of child-rearing, pregnancy and many aspects of life. So anything that we can offer people—more than just a prescription—is useful.”
However, the scientific link between creativity and bipolar disorder is complex and as yet, little understood.
Professor Murray and Professor Sheri Johnson’s paper, “The clinical significance of creativity in bipolar disorder”, featured in the Clinical Psychology Review claims “there is broad evidence that creativity and psychopathology are correlated”.
Ms Smith says, she finds bipolar patients in the North Metro Health Service to be creative across a number of areas; from writers, to musicians, to visual artists.
“An explanation may be that sufferers are exposed to a wider array of experiences—within themselves or socially—from having the condition.”
The recent paper incorporates some research concluding that bipolar disorder may be related to a number of personality characteristics, which may drive creative accomplishment, such as high goal setting, ambition for public recognition.
Other research suggests creativity may be a neurological by-product, or “benefit”, of the same frontal lobe processes stimulating a psychopathology.
Ms Smith says she agrees there may be a neurological root to the link because “bipolar disorder is a strongly biological illness and it has a strong genetic basis”.
However, she says the issue of “harnessing” creativity still remains vague and unclear.
“And while we don’t use creativity as treatment, this new discussion brings to light the possibility of introducing some sort of creative therapy to the process—perhaps something like ‘art therapy’.”
By Laura Glitsos
(Source: Science Network Western Australia: Clinical Psychology Review)
For more information on psychology and psychotherapy, including different types of therapy, see Psychology and Psychotherapy.