Unlocking Creativity Through Psychoanalysis


The Foundation saw the treatment program as a wonderful opportunity to learn about how creative people, their work, and their relationships change as a result of participating in psychoanalysis. By conducting the research – a longitudinal study of the lives of creative people – we hoped that we could help people and also learn about the process of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

We worked with creative people because of the vision of our founder, Lucy Daniels. Lucy believes that creative people have something essential to contribute to society. There is something interesting about their flexibility and newness of thought. Our first grantees were creative writers. They were not required to be geniuses or famous; however, we wanted to be sure that we were actually studying people who were putting something new into the world. So we only accepted writers whose work had been published or performed. Beginning in spring 2004, we began recruiting visual artists for a similar program of treatment and research.

We have supported treatment for nine creative individuals through grants to help pay for the cost of psychoanalysis. We limited treatment to nine creative individuals because the cost of long-term, intensive treatment is expensive. At this time we are not accepting applications for treatment.

In our study, individuals were seen four times per week in psychoanalysis with an experienced psychoanalyst. Treatment length was different for each individual but continued for several years.

Working with transference is central to any psychoanalytic therapy. Transference is the map of relationships created in early childhood in which there is a view of the self and of the other person and of how they interact with each other. This way of experiencing self, other, and relationship is replayed with the analyst. Through observing and understanding the transference within the unique analytic relationship, early models of relating can be reworked.

Psychoanalysis is dependent upon individuals’ capacity to talk about and reflect on their thoughts and feelings with another person. They were not psychotic, manic-depressive, or incapable of having relationships. Rather, they often had long term troubles with how they feel about themselves and with their relationships. They may also engage in behaviors that undermine or limit their creative work or other aspects of their lives.

At the Lucy Daniels Foundation, we believe that psychoanalysis goes deep enough and is thorough enough to bring about fundamental changes in how people relate to themselves, others, and their work. If you want to alter transference maps and distorted views of the self, then this kind of intensive treatment might be beneficial. In Lucy Daniels’ experience, psychoanalysis transformed and saved her life. At the Foundation, we want other creative people to have the opportunity to explore whether psychoanalysis might benefit them in similar or different ways.

We practiced a contemporary form of psychoanalysis that builds on a core Freudian framework. We incorporated new developments in psychoanalytic theory, for example, in the areas of female psychology, the development of the self, and the importance of early patterns of attachment in relationships. We integrated changes in analytic technique so that we view the analytic relationship as central to the quality and outcome of the therapy. The “classical” analytic technique, in which the analyst says little and is almost invisible, was replaced by one that is more engaging.

The project at the Foundation is unique; it is not replicated any place else. It is the only longitudinal study of creative people who were in psychoanalysis and who were followed for many years of their lives. We assembled an archive of data that we hope will be tapped by carefully selected researchers now and in the future. But to really examine this data carefully will take significant funding and staffing. The costs of transcribing and data entry, and the cost of using expert judges make empirical research very expensive.

Creative people have a way of mastering psychic trauma through their creative work. They take the bad things that happen to them and actively reshape painful experiences into something else – a book or a painting or a composition.