Texas Tech University

Creative counseling guru to headline Texas Tech counselor conference

Robert Stein

February 8, 2019

Dr. Samuel Gladding

Dr. Samuel T. Gladding is the keynote speaker for the 2019 Counselor Education Growth Conference on Feb. 22 at the Texas Tech University School of Law.

When Samuel T. Gladding started incorporating the creative arts – like humor, writing and music – into his counseling in the 1970s, the approach was a novel one.

Now, after decades of using guitars and sketch books to help spark change and progress in his clients, Gladding is one of the leading experts in the quickly growing practice.

"Creativity and the creative arts are an integral part of counseling worldwide," said Gladding, a professor in the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University who is sharing insights at an upcoming event on the Texas Tech University campus.

Gladding is the keynote speaker for the 2019 Counselor Education Growth Conference, which will be held Feb. 22 at the Texas Tech University School of Law's Lanier Auditorium. The keynote topic is: "Creativity in Counseling: An Essential and Ethical Aspect of Change." Register and find more about the conference. Seating is limited.

"Dr. Sam Gladding is one of the giants in the counseling profession," said Loretta Bradley, the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor in Counselor Education at Texas Tech.

"Truly his counseling work is recognized and highly respected not only in the United States but in other countries. In the area of creativity in counseling, he was a pioneer and wrote an essential book on creativity in counseling. Indeed, the Lubbock community is fortunate to have Dr. Sam Gladding visit and share his insights."

Ahead of the conference, Gladding took time to answer some questions about creativity in counseling.

What is creativity in counseling? Where do the creative arts come into play, and what is the importance of using them?

Creativity is something new, useful and socially appropriate. Counseling deals with people who are having difficulties and usually need something that's new in their lives, a different way of being in the world that can help them get over hurdles they might have.

The creative arts can be a tool for counselors to help clients find that. Instead of just asking someone how they are feeling, you could have them draw lines showing how they are feeling, or you could ask them: "If you were music, what would your sound be like?" You could have them even dance or move.

It provides for counselors a platform where we can see and hear and experience what a client is going through, rather than have him or her tell us in a verbal fashion. It gives us another avenue in which to assess what the client is experiencing and determine what we might do to help him or her.

What is one example?

I had a client one time who basically was depressed, and I knew he played the guitar. I asked him to come in and play what his life sounds like. It was not uplifting music.

The next assignment was: How would you like your life to sound? He took that one up, and then the next session was: How do we get from this to that? How do you change the music in your life and what do you do to make that different?

He began to think of places he could go, people he could meet, changes he could make. He could not really say it verbally, but he could say it musically, and that made a difference.

When did this movement start?

It is something that has been more rediscovered than new. In the early days of the United States, there was a movement called moral therapy, where people who were having mental difficulties were placed in kind of a pastoral setting, where they were not disturbed by the rush of everyday city life.

They were placed in painting, writing or music classes, where they could express themselves differently and creatively and basically take a break and discover themselves anew. It seemed to work very well. That's probably one reason many mental institutions are located in more rural areas rather than urban areas.

The use of creativity in counseling really stretches back all the way to antiquity. The ancient Egyptians tapped into the healing properties of music – as did the early Hebrews. The Greeks used music as well as drama.

You published "The Creative Arts in Counseling" in 2011. How do you characterize growth in this movement since then?

I think it has expanded and just keeps getting bigger. I updated the book in 2016 again, and I'll probably have to update it again in a few years.

But the long and short of it, now, is: There is more and more research in the area, showing that music, art and drama – even animals and plants – make a positive difference in people's lives in calming them, making them less stressful, making them more open to themselves and others and helping them to adjust and thrive in society.

If people take away one thing from your talk at the conference, what do you hope it is?

The creative arts are a research-based way of helping clients. Just like we don't live by bread alone, your ability to help people is expanded by the number of ways you know to help.

Most people are not so much sick as they are stuck in what they are doing. The creative arts can help people become unstuck without becoming unglued, and I think that really works everywhere.

More about Samuel Gladding

Twice a Fulbright Specialist, Gladding has taught counseling and worked with counselors and universities in a dozen countries and his writings have been translated into half a dozen languages. He is the current president of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), a past president of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and past chair of the American Counseling Association Foundation (ACAF).

Gladding has authored numerous professional publications, including 45 books. His 2011 book, "The Creative Arts in Counseling" is considered a key work about creativity in counseling and is now in its fifth edition.

He was a first responder to the 9/11 attack in New York City and to the shootings at Virginia Tech, providing psychological first aid to families and colleagues of victims killed.

To learn more, visit Gladding's website.