Creativity Myths

There are many misconceptions about the creative process. Many of these myths perpetuate false notions about creativity and persuade many individuals to label themselves as “non creative.” It’s really a shame because this keeps them from attempting to flow with their creative energies and blocks their imaginations. In my book, Creativity: How to Catch Lightning in a Bottle, I discuss several creativity myths. In this blog, I’m going to discuss one of these myths. I’ll discuss others in later blogs.

Myth #1. To be creative, you must be Totally Original.

Actually, originality is only one measure of creativity. In fact, creativity can occur without much originality. Noted researcher and psychologist, J.P. Guilford, defined four ways in which we can measure an individual’s creativity and he developed criteria for each measure.

A. Originality- An individual is original if his or her work is unusual or differs substantially from the norm. If a product (not necessarily tangible) is too much like other products, the work lacks originality. However, if it is too unusual and original, it may be rejected as “weird” or, as history has shown, blasphemous. Nevertheless, some degree of originality is normally desirable. To what degree, depends on various factors such as the target audience and whether the unusualness is offensive.

B. Fluency-This measures how prolific a person is. A creative person may be someone who produces tons of songs, works of art, architectural designs or business plans all of which look pretty much like all his or her other works. He may not be original but he can, nevertheless, be said to be highly creative. He is fluent and prolific.

C. Flexibility- Another measure of a person’s creativity is her flexibility. She may not produce highly original works, but may be somewhat prolific (fluent) and her products differ markedly from each other. Without being highly original or fluent, she may still be considered highly creative in the realm of flexibility. She is not stuck on the same pattern or design and, although her works are not highly unusual, they all differ in some way from each other. In many way, this is a highly prized “talent” especially in today’s business world.

D. Elaboration- Guilford’s fourth measure of creativity is elaboration. This refers to the detail and specificity of the works. A creator’s work may be highly elaborate and contain a great deal of detail, complexity and specificity. She may only have a few such works and, thus, not be highly fluent, flexible or original. The work may be a detailed replica of some other work; thus, it may lack originality but excel in the quality of elaboration.

Guilford has given us an interesting way of looking at creativity. In fact, all these qualities may exist in the works of some individual that we perceive as highly creative. These four aspects of the creative process free us from the constraints of having to look at everything through the lens of originality.

These are not the only measure of creativity. There are other ways of looking at a creator’s work. Can you think of other measurements of an individual’s creative output? I would like to hear from you as to other measurements of creativity as well as good examples of the above measurement categories. I look forward to hearing from you.

A Guide to Mental Health Professionals

There seems to be quite a significant amount of confusion regarding mental health professionals and their qualifications. This article is one of a series of articles regarding who are the major mental health professionals and the differences between them. Hopefully, these articles will serve to clarify what the main differences are and help the consumer as well as the legal professional understand the distinctions.

In future articles, I will go into more depth regarding these professions. I will confine my descriptions as they apply to professionals in California. Much of the information will apply to other states as well, but there may be some important distinctions that do not apply in other states.

Psychologist: Psychologists are trained in the social sciences. In California, only someone with a psychology license may call herself a “psychologist.” To be eligible to take the licensing exam, the psychologist must have either a Ph. D. or a Psy. D., degree. The Ph.D. is usually earned in a University (a multidisciplinary setting) where the student is trained in psychological theory and practice and in scientific research. The psychologist is also trained in the administration and interpretation of psychological tests. A Psy. D. degree is usually earned in an educational institution that is dedicated to training psychologists.

As of this date, in California, psychologists cannot prescribe psychotropic medications. If medications are needed, the psychologist will usually work with a medical doctor such as a psychiatrist, a general medical practitioner (80% of psychotropic medications in the USA are prescribed by general medical practitioners) or other medical specialist.
Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. He/she is trained in medical school and not in a university. After medical school, she will do a residency in a hospital setting where she will learn psychiatry. Typically, psychiatrists do not receive training in the social sciences or in psychological testing. As opposed to psychologists who see mental problems as predominantly issues of learning and socialization, psychiatrists emphasize the medical model. That is, they see mental problems, such as depression and anxiety, as stemming from chemical/medical imbalances. Thus, psychiatrists are well equipped to treat severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bi-polar depressions by prescribing medication.
Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists, (MFT) usually have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Some have doctoral degrees although the doctoral degree may be in some area other than marriage and family counseling. For example, an MFT may have a Ph.D. in psychology or anthropology. However, they are licensed as MFTs because they took and passed the MFT licensing exam.

Social Worker: Social workers usually have a master degree in social work (MSW). Many social workers work in hospital and community clinics where they help medical patients manage social resources while they are dealing with or recuperating from medical problems. Others work in government agencies helping families find appropriate resources for dealing with financial, medical and legal problems.

Counselor: Counselors usually have a master’s level degree and are frequently found in clinics that treat alcohol and substance abuse problems. Some may work as school counselors.
Other Mental Health Professionals: There are various other mental health professionals but the major ones are the school psychologist, the life coach, and spiritual counselors.  School psychologists usually hold a master’s degree in school psychology and are specially trained to work in the schools and with the learning disabilities of students. Life coaching is a relatively new profession wherein the professional helps the client reach her goals and aspirations. They are not licensed as therapists and there are, as yet, no licensing or academic requirements for life coaches. Spiritual counselors, clergy and pastoral counselors also provide counseling. In California there is no provision to license pastoral counselors.
These are the main mental health professionals. There are other individuals practicing as mental health professionals. Be sure to inquire what their credentials are and whether they are licensed by the State of California. If you are putting your trust in a professional that is going to help you in intimate and important areas of your life, it is best to be safe and to obtain the proper professional for you needs.
As stated at the start of this article, future articles will go into detail regarding the laws and ethics governing these various professions.

Who can use the term “Psychologist?”

There seems to be quite a significant amount of confusion regarding who can use the term “psychologist” to identify themselves. This may seem unimportant and perhaps you might answer “who cares?” but actually there are legal implications regarding mislabeling oneself and using the term to identify oneself without the proper legal authority to do so.


I recently had a discussion with some attorneys regarding the title of “psychologist.”They were under the impression that someone with a Masters degree in psychology could call herself a psychologist in California. They couldn’t understand why the term “psychologist” in California is reserved for someone who has met the requirements for licensure and has passed the California Psychologist’s licensing exam. They couldn’t understand why psychologists would protect their title so strictly and not allow anyone with a Masters or Ph.D. in psychology to use the term. The reasons for such a distinction became clearer to them when I asked them how they would feel if anyone with a degree in law, such as a J.D. (doctor of jurisprudence) could call themselves a “lawyer” without having passed the California Bar Exam.


I also spoke to a school psychologist who says she is constantly being called a “psychologist” by her employers and has to explain to them that she is a school psychologist and that calling her a “psychologist” might expose them to legal liability for misrepresenting her credentials.


In California, the BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE, SECTION 2900-2919 covers the state rules that govern the practice of psychology. Section 2903 states: “No person may engage in the practice of psychology, or represent himself or herself to be a psychologist, without a license granted under this chapter, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.” Section 2902(c) states: (c) A person represents himself or herself to be a psychologist when the person holds himself or herself out to the public by any title or description of services incorporating the words “psychology,” “psychological,” “psychologist,” “psychology consultation,” “psychology consultant,” “psychometry,” “psychometrics” or “psychometrist,” “psychotherapy,” “psychotherapist,” “psychoanalysis,” or “psychoanalyst,” or when the person holds himself or herself out to be trained, experienced, or an expert in the field of psychology.


The section clearly indicates that the use of the term “psychologist” is limited to those holding a psychology license. Section 2914 describes the requirements for licensure. Briefly, these requirements include 1. Possessing a doctorate degree in psychology, in educational psychology or in the education with a specialization in counseling or educational psychology 3. Two years supervised experience under a licensed psychologist and 4. Passing the psychology licensing exam.


Does this mean no one else can do counseling or therapy or use psychological techniques such as hypnosis or relaxation training or biofeedback or psychological coaching? What about the attorney who provides emotional support and counseling to his client who is in the middle of a stressful dispute with a family member or partner. Or the law client who is in the middle of a lawsuit or may be in need of psychotherapeutic services. Must the attorney refrain from providing such counseling for fear of being accused of practicing psychology without a license? Although some psychologists I know would like to monopolize all these areas of practice, such is not the case. The public would surely be deprived of the services of many competent and useful practitioners who use psychological techniques and methods to help their clients. Professional psychology does not have a monopoly on these methods. The code provides for this:

Section 2908.  Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent qualified members of other recognized professional groups licensed to practice in the State of California, such as, but not limited to, physicians, clinical social workers, educational psychologists,marriage and family therapists, optometrists, psychiatric technicians, or registered nurses, or attorneys admitted to the California State Bar, or persons utilizing hypnotic techniques byreferral from persons licensed to practice medicine, dentistry or psychology, or persons utilizing hypnotic techniques which offer avocational or vocational self-improvement and do not offer therapy for emotional or mental disorders, or duly ordained members of the recognized clergy, or duly ordained religious practitioners from doing work of a psychological nature consistent with the laws governing their respective professions, provided they do not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description of services incorporating the words “psychological,” “psychologist,” “psychology,” “psychometrist,” “psychometrics,” or “psychometry,” or that they do not state or imply that they are licensed to practice psychology; except that persons licensed under Article 5 (commencing with Section 4986) of Chapter 13 of Division 2 may hold themselves out to the public as licensed educational psychologists.                The last section bears emphasizing and repeating: provided they do not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description of services incorporating the words “psychological,” “psychologist,” “psychology,” “psychometrist,” “psychometrics,” or “psychometry,” or that they do not state or imply that they are licensed to practice psychology;



I should note here that there are some exceptions to the above rules. For example, there are exceptions regarding certain persons who are performing those activities as part of the duties for which they were employed and do not offer or render psychological services to the public for a fee, monetary over and above the salary they receive from the organization in which they are employed. These certain persons include:

(a) Credentialed school psychologists

(b) Credential psychometrists.

(c) Persons employed as psychologists or psychological assistants, or in a student counseling service, by accredited or approved colleges, junior colleges or universities; federal, state, county or municipal governmental organizations which are not primarily involved in the provision of direct health or mental health services.

(d) Persons who basically meet the educational requirements of licensure and who have one year or more of the supervised professional experience, if they are employed by certain nonprofit community agencies. Those persons shall be registered by the agency with the board at the time of employment and shall be identified in the setting as a “registered psychologist.”


What about professors and other academicians who have a masters or doctorate in psychology? Can’t they call themselves “psychologists?” Section 2910 states that  the chapter shall not be construed to restrict or prevent activities of a psychological nature on the part of persons who are salaried employees of accredited or approved academic institutions, public schools or governmental agencies, provided, amongst other things, that  they do not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description of activities incorporating the words “psychology,” “psychological,” “psychologist,” “psychometry,” “psychometrics” or “psychometrist” and that such persons do not offer their services to the public for a fee, monetary or otherwise; and that they do not provide direct health or mental health services.


Clearly then, such person can teach and provide psychological services within certain limits but they cannot hold themselves out to the public by calling themselves a “psychologist.”


There are some other minor exceptions to being able to provide psychological services. These include activities and services of certain graduate students or psychological interns provided that these activities and services constitute a part of his or her supervised course of study and that those persons are designated by the title “psychological intern,” “psychological trainee,” “postdoctoral intern,” or another title clearly indicating the training status appropriate to his or her level of training.


But again, note that although the section indicates that these individual are not precluded from providing their services under this section, they are precluded from using the word “psychologist” or words included in section 2902(c). They are restricted to the titles such as intern, trainee.


There is also a provision for temporary practice by out of state psychologists and a provision for individuals who may practice psychology as “Psychological assistants.” Again, the latter must be designated as psychological assistants and not psychologists.




               These rules are meant to protect the public. Don’t be misled into thinking you are seeing a licensed psychologist when you are not. Also, understand that other professionals may use psychological techniques even though they may not call themselves psychologists and they may be providing legitimate services under the licensing laws of their professions. Future articles will address other  mental health professionals.