President's Column

I am a psychologist and I am an artist. My artistic interests started with ballet lessons at age 3; I then trained and danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet Company and the Centre de Danse International in Cannes, France. Even now, I take and teach ballet classes. I, like many psychologists, historically kept my "arts" and "psychology" sides separate. In recent years, I have welcomed the opportunity to blend these two loves through my role as the Atlanta Ballet's psychologist. Offering a range of psychological services to dancers in the school and company has been professionally and personally invigorating and nurturing.

Psychology is a dynamic field where art and science come together to unite us. The arts communicate and raise questions about human suffering and the beauty of life. They can be used for self-expression, as tools for sociopolitical commentary and as representations of the human condition. The arts and psychology offer us respite from our daily struggles and opportunities for self-reflection. The arts support self-actualization for the individual and offer a wonderful and unique bridge for individuals to connect across cultures. 

The arts promote health and healing. Artistic endeavors ameliorate health problems, improve immune function, offer physical and psychological advantages, and help people live longer. The arts expand psychological horizons. Artistic activities are useful for patients for whom sharing their stories verbally is not always possible, such as those with a trauma history or with neurological problems. The arts take us into expanded states of consciousness, helping us understand our waking reality, mindfulness, altered states and dreamtime.

Many artistic, psychotherapeutic, teaching and scholarly investigations examine how individuals attempt to self-regulate or falter. Psychology offers creative and performing artists assistance in addressing occupational stresses and in reflecting upon the process of self-expression. The arts and psychology are already being combined in new and innovative ways, such as in creative arts therapies and programs such as the Austen Riggs Center "Arts in Mind" series and the Bridge Program in New York City.

The arts are a critical vehicle for expressing creativity, which is vital to human existence. Creativity supports scientific innovations and advances. From science to the arts, in professions and in daily life, creativity is everywhere. The arts support creativity by providing access to multiple modes of intelligence, thinking, communicating and problem-solving.

The arts must be included in education, from preschool to continuing professional education programs. I believe in the universality of the arts to educate, inspire, promote empathy and celebrate our diverse views and experiences. The creative process provides both the individual as creator and the viewer with an integrative experience.

As APA president, I enjoy bringing together the arts and psychology, two of my greatest passions. I am grateful to my Arts and Psychology Committee for their guidance and to those psychologists who have shared their amazing talents in the visual arts, music, dance and theater. I have been impressed by the ways in which incorporating the arts this year during my presidency has resulted in positive feedback because sharing psychologists' artistic creations has brought our community closer. I am excited that at APA's 2014 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Aug. 7–10, there are novel ways the arts will be integrated. In addition to high-quality programming, psychologists will perform at the opening ceremony, on outdoor stages and in other venues. Their artwork will be displayed on large screens throughout the convention center. In addition, we all can participate in a community arts project with Mark Cooper that will highlight my presidential theme, uniting psychology for the future – more details on that project in next month's Monitor.

In the meantime, turn to page 50 of this issue for a series of articles on psychologist-artists, a look at several highly successful community arts programs and a wrap-up of the latest research in arts and creativity.