Category Archives: Resources

7 Word Biographies


Paul Holdengräber, who interviews cultural icons through the New York Public Libraries, always asks his guests to provide a 7 word biography. He calls them biographical “haikus” or “tweets”.

Here are some wonderful examples he has elicited:

“Writer, artist, Zen Buddhist, death row survivor.” Damien Echols, author of Life After Death, about 18 years he spent on death row and his release.
“Mother, grandmothers, aunties: everyone cooked. I napped.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.
• “Current work in progress: twins in utero.” Poet Tracy K. Smith.
“An ant that nibbles away at totalitarianism.” Liao Yiwu, Chinese poet sent to prison for a poem of protest.
“Jew, Trace, Fear, Death, Life, Honor, Love.” Daniel Lanzmann, author of Shoah, an oral history of the holocaust (translated from French “Juif, Trace, Peur, Mort, Vie, Honneur, Amour”).
“Unfinished, unprocessed, uncertain, unknown, unadorned, underarms, underpants, unfrozen, unfussy.” David Byrne, songwriter and lead singer of the Talking Heads, 10 words.
“Endlessly amused by people’s minds.” Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, 5 words.
“Imagined missing father; wrestled, wrote, fathered children.” Novelist John Irving.

John Irving was so inspired by 7 word biographies that he wrote some for others:

• Charles Dickens: “Had many kids; wrote about unhappy childhoods.”
• Herman Melville: “More than a postal worker; knew whales, too.”

The use of alliteration, nouns, adjectives, sentences, phrases, symbolic or concrete descriptors, or even the decision to “disobey” the 7-word guideline reveals glimpses of the authors’ way of thinking, frame of reference and values.  When we whittle ourselves down to 7 elements, they usually reflect a core sense of self and what matters most.

We recently ran a workshop on Positive Ethics for Therapists in which we explored fundamental values that we bring to our personal lives and our work.  We handed the participants a list of values and had them circle 5-10 that they resonated with most.  Connecting with core values aligns us with our sense of purpose and meaning in life, one of the most effective strategies for increasing happiness and wellbeing (See the work of Seligman, Wong, Baumeister).

Art Directive:  We suggest that you choose your top 5-10 values (click here to download the list) and draw a simple symbol for each of the values that you chose so that you have not just a verbal but also a visual vocabulary for those values.  Keep that list/drawing in your view (in your office, on your refrigerator) as a reminder of what is important to you.

And draft your own 7-word biography!

Here is Rebecca’s attempt:

“See beauty in others.  Soften suffering. Cats.”

And Gioia’s:

Artist, visionary, appreciator.  Passionate, compassionate.  Also, Mommy.”

Share yours in the “Comments” section below!

What’s Your “Super Power”?

My sister Jenny loves to liven up dinner parties by asking guests around the table “what is your ‘Super Power’–some quality that others know you for, even if it’s something outrageous and seemingly useless?” Initially, when the first identified speaker has to “toot” his own horn, there is an awkward pause, but then the energy mobilizes as people coin phrases for their outstanding characteristics such as “Social Ambassador,”  “Cyber Jockey,” “People Magnet,” and “Baby Whisperer.”

Although most of us can identify at least one “Super Power” and we may have a vague sense of what others appreciate about us, we often don’t have an articulated picture of our strengths. One of our favorite tools for doing just that is a wonderful online resource, the Values in Action Survey, a questionnaire that identifies outstanding “Signature Strengths.” Other online strength assessments include the Capp Realise 2, which differentiates between strengths that energize us and those that deplete us or the Clifton Strengths Finder, which is especially useful in identifying work related strengths.

One of our favorite teachers, Robert Biswas-Diener (whose nickname, “The Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology,” might allude to some of his strengths), suggests that whether we use formal tools or whether we develop our own vocabulary for strengths (like our dinner party guests monikers), we should become “strengths spotters.”  We should attend more to not only our own but other people’s outstanding qualities and skills.

Yellow Planetary Warrios

Yellow Planetary Warrior

Why? Because research shows that a tremendous source of satisfaction and happiness comes from the sense of engagement and focus we feel when we when we are mobilizing our strengths and helping others capitalize on theirs.

One of our Super Powers at Creative Wellbeing Workshops is gleeful enjoyment of the artistic uniqueness in people’s artwork (especially those folks who insist they don’t have any artistic skill).  We love seeing those artists find meaning in the artistic choices they deliberately or, often accidentally, made.  For us, their artwork beautifully illustrates their “signature” strengths! Maybe that makes us “Starry-Eyed Art Gazers.”

What is your “Super Power”?

Jenny-Curious Cat

Jenny-Curious Cat

Tell us about your super strengths below. we’d love to hear your feedback.

Art Directive for Strengths

We always like to offer an art directive: Draw a symbol for one or more of your strengths–it can be using just color, line, or shape but you can also think of an animal or an object.

Here are links to some of the assessment tools to which we have been referring:

The Values in Action Survey is free and available on the Authentic Happiness website.  You will have to create a login and then you will be able to take that and also many of the other questionnaires they offer such as approaches to happiness, optimism, and life satisfaction.

The Capp Realise 2 assessment is available for a small fee.  It is incredibly useful in differentiating strengths which energize us and those that might deplete us.

The Gallup Institute has an online Strengths Center and strengths assessment tools available for a nominal fee.


The Art In Scribbling

Download the PDF of the Scribble here

What’s in a Scribble?

What we “see” objectively can often change very quickly.  We recently ran a workshop at Montgomery County Government with Building Site Inspectors.  We had made a powerpoint on a simple white slide template and, because the facility did not have a screen on which to project the powerpoint, we projected it onto the wall made of grey cloth paneling.  When we asked the group to identify the background color of the powerpoint slide, several spontaneously declared “white!” but then corrected themselves and dubiously said “at least I think it’s supposed to be white…but it actually looks light blue.”  They quickly understood that their assumption had led them to “see” what they presumed.

These drawings were made by different people starting with the same scribble outline.  The artists were given paper with a scribble drawn on it and encouraged to find and develop an image (or multiple images) from the scribble, a technique that is often used in art therapy to loosen people up and inspire their imagination (usually they are encouraged to use their own scribble as the inspiration).  All of the artists saw dramatically different images and their final pictures show the unique directions they went.

One of the things that we love about art is that it can so easily and graphically illustrate our different perceptions, as these drawings so beautifully show. In art therapy, we might go further and encourage people to look at their drawings from different viewpoints–hold them up, step back, squint so that they see things slightly out of focus which amplifies larger and more pronounced areas and shapes.  In groups, they might also get others’ responses to their drawings. Those observations are often surprising and eye-opening.  Invariably, by the end of this process, they “see” their image completely differently.

Art Directive:
We invite you to respond to the same scribble drawing that was used in these examples (Download the PDF) and, if you would like, post it below or to our facebook page.

You can also make your own scribble drawing:

1. Choose drawing paper upon which you would like to make your image and media with which you would like to work (markers, pencils, paints). ).

2. For the scribble, use a pencil or light marker so that the line will be softer. Randomly scribble lines on a piece of drawing paper (sometimes people start by actually making sweeping motions in space with their arm to warm up). When you begin to scribble, some recommend that you make a continuous line without lifting your pen or pencil, doing so until there are enough lines to create interest but not be too complicated.

3. You may want to experiment with a couple of scribbles on different sheets of paper. When you’ve chosen one to work with, hold the scribble at different angles until you see some form(s) or shape(s) that make a picture.

4. Use any materials (markers, pencils, paints) to develop that picture. Add any lines or colors that are help build the image. You can stay in the lines of the scribble or go out of the lines, wherever your imagination and hand take you! Enjoy!

This technique is attributed originally to two different sources. In the 50s, British psychologist Donald Winnicott began incorporating scribbles in his work with children as a means of establishing relationship with them. He also determined that these scribble drawings gave him valuable insight into his clients. At around the same time artist Florence Cane used them in her work with special needs children to encourage spontaneity. Her sister, pioneer art therapist Margaret Naumburg, adopted the technique in her work as a means to draw out and explore unconscious material.

Art Therapy

Creative Wellbeing Workshops presenters are Board Certified and Registered Art Therapists practicing in the field for 20 years each.

Art Therapy utilizes the art making process to enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages and abilities. Art therapy facilitates growth through activating the creative process and utilizing the art product for self-reflection, expression, and exploration. No background, skill, or talent in art is needed for clients to benefit from art therapy.

Art Therapy involves two dynamic components, both of which can be useful in promoting happiness and wellbeing.

Art as Therapy

The first component derives from the practice often called “Art as Therapy” which shows that the creative process of art making is inherently healing. It improves mood and activates parts of the brain that are not responsive to traditional verbal therapeutic interventions and which promote problem-solving. Art making can also induces a state of flow–a sense of being absorbed, focused and fully engaged. Finally, because art making is grounded in affective-sensory experiences, it facilitates mind-body connectivity and sympathetic-parasympathetic balance.

Art Psychotherapy

The second component, coined “Art Psychotherapy,” proposes that art serves as means of communicating, as a visual language. The art work and the art process provide access to information that might not be available through traditional verbalization. Addressing a question by visualizing its resolution through artistic means allows that concern to be observed and experienced differently. The art work itself becomes a visual representation of the artist’s experience– even the simplest drawings reflect the artist’s personality and speak to his/her unique interests, concerns, and strengths. As a tangible visual reminder, the art work becomes reference for future reflection and a springboard for further exploration.

Combining the Two

Art therapists are trained to master these variables—they have in-depth knowledge of the art process and of the potential for different artistic media to evoke particular responses and they help clients use the art they’ve made as a tool for insight and exploration. They receive in-depth training in psychotherapy, assessment, and diagnosis, and blend this foundation with their expertise in the creative process.

Art Therapy in Groups

Art therapy helps warm group members up to each other, builds group cohesion and helps identifies common interests and concerns. In working groups, art therapy can be particularly useful for team building. Art experientials can be used for ice-breakers and for propelling focused work, innovation and creative thinking. When looking at the artwork collectively, common visual themes and symbols emerge. That visual language encourages dialogue and collaboration. The artwork can also serve as a record of group process for visual reference. It is ideal for visioning work, in which hopes, aspirations, and goals of the group can literally be visualized and then serve as a visual record of those intentions and a source of ongoing inspiration.

Positive Art Therapy

“Positive Art Therapy,” a term suggested by the founders of Creative Wellbeing Workshops, combines the healing potential of art therapy with the empowering focus of the positive psychology movement. Positive art therapy utilizes the creative process to enhance positive emotions, identify and develop positive character and strengths, and participate in and foster positive communities.

Creative Wellbeing Workshops is not the first to identify the power of the art process and of creativity in promoting happiness and joins this community of innovators through the practice of “Positive Art Therapy.” We partner with other art therapists, artists, mental health practitioners, positive psychologists, community organizations, educational and governmental institutions, whose interests ally or converge with creativity and wellbeing.

Art Therapy Training

Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They have in-depth knowledge of the art process and the potential for art work to serve as a tool for reflection and communication. They receive in-depth training in psychotherapy, assessment, and diagnosis, and blend this foundation with their expertise in the creative process. A master’s degree is required for entry level practice in art therapy. Minimum educational and professional standards for the profession are established by the American Art Therapy Association, Inc. (AATA) a membership and advocacy organization.

Art Therapists are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spirituality, multicultural and artistic traditions, diversity, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; employee assistance programs, open art studios and independent practices.

Art Therapy Certification

The Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (ATCB) grants art therapy credentials based upon the following:

  • Registration (ATR) is granted upon completion of graduate education and post-graduate clinically supervised experience.
  • Board Certification (ATR-BC) is granted to Registered Art Therapists who successfully complete the national examination demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of the theories and clinical skills used in art therapy.

The ATCB requires all credential holders to adhere to the ethical standards of the ATCB Code of Professional conduct, and to participate in continuing education and professional development.

Art Therapy Resources

Art Therapy References