ERIC Identifier: ED260369
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Benjamin, Libby
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.

Creativity and Counseling. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Fact Sheet.

Creativity -- a word that connotes excitement, fun, inspiration, risk, novelty, the unknown, imagination, surprise. A fascinating dimension of mental functioning, creativity has been the subject intensive research since the 1960s. As a result, we are increasingly able to identify the behavorial factors that are common to unusually inventive individuals, as well as the environmental factors that contribute to creative thinking and creative problem-solving.


While early scholars focused on the creation, the product of creative efforts, researchers since have studied creativity from other perspectives: (a) the creative process, with fairly discrete behavorial stages; (b) the particular constellation of personality characteristics in the creator; and (c) environmental conditions that promote creative activity.

Experts on creativity (Guildford 1973) generally agree on the phases a person goes through in the creative process:

1. Preparation -- acquiring skills, background information, resources, sensing and defining a problem

2. Concentration -- focusing intensely on the problem to the exclusion of other demands -- a trial and error phase that includes false starts and frustration

3. Incubation -- withdrawing from the problem; sorting, integrating, clarifying at an unconscious level; often includes reverie, relaxation, solitude

4. Illumination -- The Aha! stage, often sudden, involving the emergence of an image, idea, or perspective that suggests a solution or direction for further work

5. Verification, Elaboration -- testing out the idea, evaluating, developing, implementing, convincing others of the worth of the idea

These stages are not necessarily distinct and usually involve a complex recycling of the process.

Torrance (1969) defines creativity broadly as the process of sensing a problem, searching for possible solutions, drawing hypotheses, testing and evaluating, and communicating the results to others. He adds that the process includes original ideas, a different point of view, breaking out of the mold, recombining ideas or seeing new relationships among ideas. Moving the focus to the behavorial perspective, Torrance describes four components by which individual creativity can be assessed:

--Fluency: the ability to produce a large number of ideas

--Flexibility: the ability to produce a large variety of ideas

--Elaboration: the ability to develop, embellish, or fill out an idea

--Originality: the ability to produce ideas that are unusual, statistically infrequent, not banal or obvious

From still another viewpoint, creativity is perceived as three-dimensional (Khatena 1982), consisting of the person, the environment, and the cosmos -- this last component to include the suprarational forces that illumine creativity at the highest or genius levels.


According to the most extensive research in this field, creative people possess in quantity the abilities identified by Torrance: sensitivity to problems and deficiencies; ability to flesh them out; and ability to perceive in a way different from the traditional or established method. In addition, highly creative people share the following traits: flexibility rather than rigidity, openness to new ideas and experiences, tolerance of ambiguity, a wide range of interests, curiosity, enthusiasm and energy, vivid imaginations, playfulness, commitment and concentration, comfort with change, capacity for hard work, persistence, divergent thinking.

Because creativity involves new approaches and the production of something new and untried, it also involves the risk of failure. It follows logically, then, and is supported in the literature, that two characteristics of the creative person are particularly significant: self-confidence, based on a strong self-concept, and independence, the strength to hold fast against disagreement or resistance by others and the courage to persist when others may be threatened by a new idea or discovery.


When researchers attempt to measure this capacity, they must first "index" creativity; that is, decide what they mean by creativity, what dimensions are accessible for identification, and whether these can be operationalized to the extent that they can be measured. Four broad approaches to the assessment of creativity prevail (Lesher 1973): assessment of the product (Jackson and Messick 1967), the process (Mednick and Mednick 1962; Torrance 1966; Wallach and Kogan 1965), the person, and the environment.

Generally speaking, researchers agree that students enrolled in courses designed to stimulate creative ability do improve in at least some of the creative abilities being tested, that performance on creative tests can be improved by the use of reward and specialized training, that early family responsibilities and opportunities for independent action encourage creative achievement, that educational experiences are decidedly influential in fostering or suppressing creative potential, that creativity training programs in schools are more effective when teacher involvement is high, that creativity is associated with good mental health.


The following creative approaches, when used in the counseling process, can help clients do two things: (1) produce more creative outcomes in decision-making and (2) use creative processes in planning and goal-setting.

--Futurization: helping people to move away from the present and examine their situation from a futuristic point of view, to open their minds to divergent thinking and possibilities they may not have considered

--Imagery: helping people to put themselves into a situation, imagine being there, experience various outcomes; allowing for an incubation period when ideas can have a chance to sort themselves out and recombine in creative ways

--Suspended Judgment: helping people postpone evaluation, which keeps the mind open to new possibilities and options and consideration of alternatives

--Multiple Options and Choices: helping people avoid settling on a single choice, expand their options, do some contingency planning

--Whole Person Resources: helping people combine logic and rationality with gut-level emotions and feelings in making decisions, pushing less hard for answers, providing more support for What if? responses, for fantasizing and dreaming

--Modeling Creative Behavior: allowing people to be independent, letting them experience mistakes, avoiding evaluation, being flexible, rewarding creative behavior, understanding the creative process


Guildford, J. P. CHARACTERISTICS OF CREATIVITY. Springfield, IL: Illinois State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Gifted Children Section, 1973. ED 080 171.

Jackson, P. W., and S. Messick. "The Person, the Product, and the Response: Conceptual Problems in the Assessment of Creativity." In CREATIVITY AND LEARNING, edited by J. Kagan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967.

Khatena, J. "Myth: Creativity is Too Difficult to Measure!" GIFTED CHILD QUARTERLY 26 (1982):21-23.

Lesher, R. E. ASSESSMENT OF CREATIVITY. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Department of Education, 1973. ED 100 992.

Mednick, S. A., and M. T. Mednick. REMOTE ASSOCIATES TEST. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

Torrance, E. P. TORRANCE TESTS OF CREATIVITY. Princeton: Personnel Press, 1966.

Torrance, E. P. CREATIVITY. WHAT RESEARCH SAYS TO THE TEACHER. SERIES NO. 28. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1969. ED 078 435.

Wallach, M. A., and N. Kogan. MODES OF THINKING IN YOUNG CHILDREN. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965.

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