Third Tuesday of the month, September through June, 7:30 PM
3715 Alton Place, NW, Washington, DC 20016

Our group views creativity as a capacity that is integral to being human, although the ability to express that creativity may be developed to differing degrees. Our readings have built up a body of thinking about creativity that draws on classical, self psychological, and relational theories. The group shares some responsibility for suggesting topics and readings related to these issues, and collaborates in inviting researchers and artists to join us to discuss their process.

Members who attend this study group will be able to:

Semester #1 – September thru January Meetings

1a) Watch Martha Graham’s “Immediate Tragedy,” Mark Morris’s “Sunshine,” Alvin Ailey’s “Buked” and a performance by the Chamber Dance Company. Read Chapter 6 Creativity and Transformation, in Carol Press’s The Dancing Self.  Describe Press’s views on the application of self psychology and intersubjectivity to the process of choreography.

1b) List two ways in which these theories apply to the roles and experience of the therapist and the patient in therapy.

2a) Take a virtual tour of abstract fabric artist Judy Kirpich’s studio and hear her discuss her work which she describes as “directed by my emotions.” Select one of her series (such as Memory Loss, Cancer, Anxiety) and describe how her portrayal of these topics increases our understanding of them.

2b) Apply insights from her art process to clinical work with patients dealing with similar issues.

3a) Read My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, the body-centered psychologist who deals with racial trauma. Listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with him.  Discuss Menakem’s approach to the complex effects of racism and white privilege.

3b) List three somatic techniques he uses to bring about what he terms body mindfulness, the state in which traumatic experiences can be processed.

4a) View art by Carrie Mae Weems, a MacArthur Fellow who “has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, audio, digital images, installation, and video.” List two examples in her work that show her to be what the New York Times calls “a moral force.”

4b) She is quoted as describing art as the one place we all turn to for solace. Discuss a case in which art was used in therapy to provide solace when words failed.

5a) Read Brand New Ancients, by Kate Tempest. This book of poetry is described as being about “conflicted beings in search of a self.” Discuss the therapeutic importance of finding the “epic narrative” Tempest believes is within each person.

5b) Apply insights from self-psychology to her portrayal of Tiresias and other characters from Greek mythology who figure in this psychological poetic work.

Semester #2 – February thru June Meetings

1a) Read about the life of musician and MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens and listen to her music with a focus on learning about the role of music in personal and cultural identity formation and the healing of trauma. List ways in which Giddens’s unearthing stories of “forgotten people” (such as those who were killed in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898) leads to the culturally grounding power of known history.

1b) Describe how the suppression of cultural history can lead to ongoing intergenerational trauma.

2a) Read Inheritance by Dani Shapiro – memoir about a woman who discovers as an adult that she was conceived with donor sperm. Discuss the impact of secrets on the family system and on the formation of individual identity.

2b) Specify two ethical issues resulting from the use of ART (assisted reproductive technology).

3a) View the semi-autobiographical film The Time to Live and the Time to Die by “slow film” Taiwanese film master Hou Hsaio Hsien. Describe how the film demonstrates the impact of intergenerational trauma and cultural and political disruption on this family.

3b) Describe how this relates to case material in family therapy.

4a) Take virtual tour of the studio of Nancy McIntyre, silk screen artist, and hear her discuss her work and the process by which it is made. McIntyre sees the application of multiple layers of ink as the present being “overlaid onto the visible ghosts of the past.” Compare the similarities of the psychotherapeutic process with McIntyre’s experience of building a layered image.

4b) McIntyre also describes her art as bearing witness to the stories and work of the hands of the people she observes and depicts. Discuss case material in which close observation of the everyday presence of the patient leads to slow discovery of layers of meaning.

5a) Share some of the results of our own creative process. Elaborate on and discuss the way each of us – as creator or appreciative spectator – feels enhanced by the process or product of the artist’s creation.

5b) Apply insights from P. Townsend’s Creativity and Destructiveness in Art and Psychoanalysis to case material.