Creativity as a concept was initially identified as a ‘fuzzy soft concept’ but at the same time dynamic and exciting. Despite this incongruity there have been a number of descriptions of creativity. Psychologists tend to agree, though, that creativity is to do with the ability to use imagination and make things; it is also recognised as a human need and part of normal personality development. Creativity is not only desirable for wellbeing, it is necessary for mental health to avoid burnout.

The World Health Organisation acknowledges a set of social determinants of health and wellbeing which can be worked with using creativity to increase wellbeing. The social determinants are the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. They are influenced by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The evidence indicates that creative activities can have a healing and protective effect on mental well-being but there are limitations to the current evidence base.

Human flourishing is another term for the concept of wellbeing and has been used by a number of theorists, particularly the positive psychologists. The research undertaken in this area offers another perspective on the aims for creativity and wellbeing. Tay et al.’s (2018) framework for flourishing provides four areas of influence:

Neurological/physiological/psychological reactions

Psychological competencies

General wellbeing effects

Positive normative outcomes

Whereas NEF (Foresight 2008) provides five mechanism for change, connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give, another model for creativity and wellbeing was developed by Natalie Rogers, daughter of Carl Rogers, who offers the conditions for creativity based on his foundational theory. Rogers (1993: 14) states:

The Conditions that foster creativity

Psychological safety

Accepting the individual as of unconditional worth

Providing a climate in which external evaluation is absent

Understanding empathetically

Psychological freedom

Offering stimulating and challenging experiences

Whilst these models can guide services, health care has provided art therapy for many years and more recently social prescribing has been incorporated into statutory services.