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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Creative Counseling

One attribute of a good counselor or good leader is the ability to be creative.  This article is an overview of Samuel Gladding’s ideas for implementing creativity into one’s counseling practice.

The acronym SCAMPER was created by Bob Eberle as a creativity technique to help teach children how to develop their thinking skills.  Over time, it was obvious that these concepts could be incorporated in a variety of applications.

Here are some suggestions for bringing the concepts of SCAMPER into your counseling sessions, and thus, enabling both you and your clients to develop increased creativity:

S stands for substitute; to have a person or thing stand in place of another.   For instance, in counseling, you can substitute a large group for a small group, or silence for talking.  The point of this concept is to learn to make one slight change in your counseling methodology in order to bring variety to your sessions.

C stands for combine, which means that you are to bring together and unite for the purpose of enhancing synergy.  In a counseling session this would involve all members in the group or session sharing their individual ideas in order to find solutions or suggestions for problems.  Another C word related to this idea is collaboration.  It is always important to remember that your job as a counselor is to collaborate with your clients.

A stands for adapt, adjust, or alter.  Help your clients come up with different ways to adjust to a problem or situation, rather than doing the same old thing all the time.  Brainstorm and write a list of ideas for your clients to try.  Help them think “outside the box.”

M stands for modify.  To modify something means to change the form of it by either magnifying or minimizing one aspect of it.  In therapy, modification can change the entire gestalt. You can recommend a client change one behavior he or she does slightly, by minimizing or maximizing a certain aspect of this behavior This slight modification can change the impact it has on him or herself and others.

P stands for “put to other uses.”   That is, to put things to uses other than what they were originally intended.  The theory behind this term is that clients are often not so much sick as they are stuck, and they just don’t think creatively enough about how to change their circumstances. Your role is to help your clients get “unstuck” by teaching them to think differently.

E stands for eliminate.  To eliminate something means to get rid of part of it or to get rid of all of it entirely.  For instance, a client who wants to lose weight may eliminate a certain food from his or her diet; or, another client may want to change their thinking by eliminating negativity.

R stands for reverse or rearrange; that is, to turn around, change the order of, or follow a different plan.  For example, an addict may need to rearrange his or her routines.  In narrative therapy, the client may need to rearrange the story or emphasize one part of the story more.

In order to maximize creativity it is helpful to:

  • Eliminate fear.
  • Make time to be quiet and alone.
  • Be around people with healthy interpersonal interactions.
  • Allow for mistakes.
  • Take action.

Being creative improves insight, self-awareness, and identity; it inspires, energizes, and motivates people.



Gladding, S.T. (2007). Becoming a Creative Counselor: The SCAMPER Model. Alexandria, VA: Microtraining Associates

Mind Tools. SCAMPER: Improving Products and Services Retrieved from: pages/article/newCT_02.htm

Creative Counseling

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). Creative Counseling. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from