Using Creative Approaches to Provide Your Patients With Better, More Effective Care

Therapy Benefits From Flexibility and New Ideas – Tips From Harvard Psychologist Shelley Carson, PhD

A patient with her art.

Creativity is contagious and can have a revitalizing effect on both therapy and a patient's health, with both caregiver and recipient benefiting immensely. Shelley Carson, who received her PhD in psychology from Harvard and who now researches and lectures there, says that creativity is important not just in the arts and science but in virtually all professions – physical therapy, occupational therapy, and case management included. When patients find certain protocols painful or boring, the therapist can use creativity to adapt programs and therapeutic techniques to individual cases, as well as find new ways to motivate the patient.

Where OTs and PTs can benefit from a creative attitude

Creativity can help you to become a better therapist, which will benefit both your patients and your own career – even your job satisfaction and performance -- by keeping the work "fresh." Carson gives an example: "Part of the creative process is generating multiple solutions to a particular problem. The creative mindset suggests that there is no one ‘right' way to do things.

"Being open to multiple possibilities," Says Carson, "Allows you to see unique solutions that may work when more standard approaches have been unsuccessful. It also allows both you and your patient to feel less frustrated when any given approach does not work. Viewing therapy as a creative process helps both of you gain more patience as you experiment and adapt approaches to your patient's case."

There is a basic creative process that can be implemented to help creativity to spark and flourish and to solve professional dilemmas. Carson outlines the steps:

Carson recommends trying the creative approach and witnessing the positive results for yourself. "When you view each case as an exciting opportunity for creativity, you spark excitement in your team and in your patients," she says. "The process becomes more collaborative and full of possibilities."

Your patients can benefit from seeing their therapy as a creative process in the following ways:

To learn more about Shelley Carson and her work, visit

For ideas on how to deal with negative emotions on the part of either therapists or patients, see

For ideas on how to turn annoyances into opportunities, see