Faculty Profile: Ruth Richards

Photograph of RuthRichards
Ruth Richards


Directory – Saybrook University

Ruth Richards, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Psychology & Interdisciplinary Inquiry
(510) 558-8606, rrichards@saybrook.edu

Ruth Richards received her Ph.D. in educational psychology and science education from the University of California, Berkeley, her M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and did her residency in psychiatry at McLean Hospital (affiliate of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital). She is a licensed psychologist (Massachusetts) and Board Certified Psychiatrist, currently working as educational psychologist and research psychiatrist. She is Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University, in the areas of Creativity, Consciousness Studies, Spirituality, and Integrative Health. She continues as Research Affiliate at McLean Hospital, and Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Richards is winner of the Rudolf Arnheim Award from Division 10 of the American Psychological Association (APA), for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Psychology and the Arts. She has written numerous papers and chapters and edited two books, including Everyday Creativity and New Views of Human Nature: Psychological, Social, and Spiritual Perspectives (APA Books, 2007; with Mandarin translation, Taipei, Taiwan: Wu-Nan Publ. Co., 2009). She serves on three editorial boards, and speaks frequently, including invited addresses in New Zealand, and Taiwan, and has been keynote speaker at two conferences in the last year. The courses she teaches at Saybrook include Psychology of Consciousness, Dimensions of Creativity, Art-Based Inquiry, Personal Mythology and Dreamwork, and Eastern Psychologies; she also supervises masters and doctoral level research. Dr. Richards teaches in the vibrant Creativity Studies Certificate and the new M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Psychology+Creativity; she is also Director of the new Arts and Self-Expression Certificate Program. Dr. Richards works with students around diverse applications to clinical practice, education, management, personal and spiritual development, and social change. She also serves on the Advisory Board of www.AHIMSABerkeley.org, which furthers dialogue between science, spirituality, and social change, toward enhanced mutual understanding and peace.


Curriculum Vitae

Upcoming Presentations and Public Addresses

Saybrook Society Address:

Everyday Creativity (TM): Our Hidden Potential

Wednesday, September 28, 2005, 7:30 p.m.,

Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center

747 Front Street (at corner of Broadway), Rollo May Library

$10, seating limited, RSVP T.Hopper 415-394-5220


Relational Healing and the Creative Spirit: From the Clinical to Everyday Life

2005 AHIMSA/Institute of World Religions Conference

(Who We Are: Reaching for Empathy and the Roots of Peace)

Saturday, October 8th, 2005, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Bade Library, Pacific School of Religion & Graduate Theological Union

1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA

(see www.ahimsaberkeley.org)


Degrees, Discipline, Year, Institution

1980 M.D. Harvard Medical School
* 1971 Ph.D. Univ. of California, Berkeley (educational psychology and science education)
* 1969 M.A. University of California, Berkeley (science education)
* 1965 B.S. Stanford University (physics, with distinction)

Current Projects and Professional Activities

 It is my pleasure to teach full-time as Professor at Saybrook in Consciousness & Spirituality, while also serving as Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and continuing a 24-plus year affiliation at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. I once worked there physically, but am still continuing joint research on creativity and mental health issues. My primary interest over many years has been our personal and everyday creativity as human beings, which I’ve studied and taught about as educator, clinician, parent, concerned citizen, and person interested in our deeper knowing and our greater human potential (see “Research Interests, above). There are related topics involving aesthetics, chaos theory, and spirituality, with implications for social action including raising awareness about our profound interdependence, and our need to create sustainable—and wise and compassionate--futures on our threatened planet. At Saybrook I am very pleased to have helped start the Certificate in Creativity Studies, as well as to offer course in areas including creativity, consciousness studies, Eastern psychologies, and personal mythology and dreamwork. I’m finishing an elective term as At-Large Representative for Division 10, of APA, which finally got renamed Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (creativity is in the title at last—creativity is more than the arts!), and I’m on the editorial boards of the Creativity Research Journal and the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. I was also on the Executive Advisory Board for Academic Press’s Encyclopedia of Creativity, with multiple encyclopedia entries, and I publish frequently on topics related to creativity, aesthetics, chaos theory, and spirituality. I also coedited a 560-plus page book, Eminent Creativity, Everyday Creativity and Health (Ablex, 1998), which is used in our creativity program. I present at conferences, have spoken about creativity on radio and television (including the syndicated PBS program The Infinite Mind), and am listed in references including Who’s Who in America. When I started in the creativity area, it was considered “elective” by many, even a bit “fuzzy” or vague. I am now pleased to see creativity figuring centrally in what we consider optimal, and healthy, human development.

Current Publications

Kinney, D.K., Richards, R., & Southam, M. (in press). Everyday creativity, its assessment, and The Lifetime Creativity Scales. (The actual Lifetime Creativity Scales are included, following a review.) In M. Runco (Ed.), The handbook of creativity. Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press.


Arons, M., & Richards, R. (2001). Two noble insurgencies: Creativity and Humanistic Psychology. In, K.J. Schneider, J.F.T. Bugental,, & J. F. Pierson (Eds.), Handbook of Humanistic Psychology (pp. 127-142). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Includes R. Richards (1999). “We are all creative…” (poem and original graphics) from D. Nissen (Ed.). What good is art? Oakland Museum of California.


Richards, R. (2001). A new aesthetic for environmental awareness: Chaos theory, the natural world, and our broader humanistic identity (part of special ecopsychology issue, Humanistic Psychology and the Environment). Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 41(2), 59-95.


Kinney, D.K., Richards, R., Lowing, P.A., LeBlanc, D., Zimbalist, M.E., & Harlan, P. (2000-2001). Creativity in offspring of schizophrenics and controls (for special issue, “Creativity and the schizophrenia spectrum,” edited by Louis Sass and David Schuldberg). Creativity Research Journal, 13(1),17-26.


Richards, R. (2000-2001). Creativity and the schizophrenia spectrum?: More and more interesting. (Concluding commentary for special issue, “Creativity and the schizophrenia spectrum,” edited by Louis Sass and David Schuldberg). Creativity Research Journal, 13(1), 111-131.







Significant Publications

Richards, R. (2001). A new aesthetic for environmental awareness: Chaos theory, the natural world, and our broader humanistic identity (part of special ecopsychology issue, Humanistic Psychology and the Environment). Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 41(2), 59-95.


Richards, R. (2000-2001). Millennium as opportunity: Chaos, creativity, and J.P. Guilford’s Structure-of-Intellect Model. Creativity Research Journal, 13 (3&4), 249-265. (Lead theoretical article in special millennial issue, honoring J.P. Guilford and 50 years of creativity research.)


Richards, R. (1999). The subtle attraction: Beauty as a force in awareness, creativity, and survival. In S. Russ (ed.), Affect, creative experience, and psychological adjustment (pp. 195-219). Philadelphia, PA: Brunner/Mazel.









Important Conference Presentations

Richards, R. (2001, August). Creative self-concept: Our selves as open systems. Part of symposium also organized and chaired by Dr. Richards, “Everyday creativity in a new millennium: Personal and planetary healing.” Presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.

Richards, R. (1999, August). A new aesthetic for environmental awareness: Chaos, creativity, and our broader humanistic identity. Part of symposium, “Psychologists and the environment.” Presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

Richards, R., & Kerr, C. (1999, July). The fractal forms of nature: A resonant aesthetic? Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences, Berkeley, CA.

(similar, 1999, August) Presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

Richards, R. (1997, August). Discussancies, three symposia: (1) “Affect and creativity: Current research and issues” (Sound Images, Inc., Tape APA97-2065); (2) Performative psychology—Realization and reflection; (3) Creativity and the Schizophrenia Spectrum II—Theoretical and critical reflections. 105th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

Dr. Richards was also 2nd coauthor for paper presented by D. Kinney, in the related empirical session, Creativity and the Schizophrenia Spectrum I, Creativity in offspring of schizophrenics and control parents: An adoption study. 105th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.


Research Interests

'I’ve studied everyday creativity for quite a few years now, as clinician, educator, citizen, parent, and as an individual concerned with our greater human purpose and potential. I do this work both at Saybrook and in ongoing collaboration with colleagues at Harvard Medical School. My areas of scholarship and writing have broadened over the years, as has the whole field of creativity studies. What, after all, brings us to awareness, aliveness in the moment, heightened potential for discovery and growth, and to deeper appreciation of our human possibilities—to the “originality of everyday life”? These are just some of the questions I feel privileged to be asking. ** And there are many more. Just how healthy is this everyday creativity, potentially (very), and if it is so good for us, physically, and psychologically--at times even bringing profound spiritual growth and transformation--then what is this sometimes connection one hears about with personal problems, illness, and conflict? One reads a lot about mood disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse, troubled childhoods, early traumatic experience, and more. And what about “creativity and evil”? There’s definitely “something here” amidst the complexity, and it’s not simple. However, the message is (or can be) ultimately one of hope, resilience, openness, and health. Along other lines, it’s also well worth asking what the new sciences, including chaos theory, can tell us about creative process and inspiration in particular—and is there more than one phenomenon occurring here; indeed, might some insights even come through us, rather than from us? Are there both personal and transpersonal aspects to creativity? Can Eastern psychologies further our understanding? (a lot). Beyond this, is there any link to how we respond to beauty—which after all does bring us to conscious awareness and can change us both psychologically and physically, while reorienting us offering delight. What might this tell us, in turn, about a deeper purpose and promise of creativity? ** At this time, activities include ongoing studies of creativity in individuals and families at risk for major psychiatric disorders (including “normal” relatives), along with colleagues at Harvard Medical School, using approaches based on our Lifetime Creativity Scales and a life history approach. I have also recently studied issues of aesthetic appreciation in the context of chaos theory, with an approach based on the fractal forms of nature and, in addition, am exploring aesthetics as a path to our deeper awareness and appreciation of our fundamental interconnection. Here one also finds potential for raising sensitivity to what we humans are doing to our world, and the urgent need for sustainability and new levels of global cooperation; this may spur future projects. I am also doing multiple writing projects related to all of the above, to help people further recognize, uncover, and release their healthy creative potential—both individually and together.

Research Expertise

As a one-time physics major and math buff, I really like the quantitative work in psychological research, and see its potential. Yet as in-depth interviewer and former clinician, I very much appreciate the depth and importance of subjective experience, which only a qualitative approach can give. A powerful combination therefore can be the “quant-qual” mix, where one gets “breadth” though the likes of survey instruments with a larger group, and then “depth” from carefully interviewing a smaller subsample of participants. My personal experience includes research involving instrument development, test administration and research interviewing, with qualitative and quantitative data analysis, including basic statistics, ANOVA, and factor analysis. I am interested in transpersonal research methods, and the possibility of aesthetic modes of inquiry, as well as their challenges to the mainstream (and to us!). I have taught research and assessment courses and have other areas of expertise, related to work with graduate students or teaching, as per a later section.


Expertise Working with Saybrook Students

Beyond the usual teaching and mentoring, around classwork and research projects, my work with Saybrook graduate students has included: (a) helping people get published, or obtain a slot for conference presentation; (b) secure scholarship or loan help for their studies, and other prizes in and out of Saybrook; (c) connect students together who share common interests and have relevant resources, where all can benefit—this is fun to do; (d) help people get professorial and other jobs; (e) engage people in Creativity Studies Certificate activities at Saybrook residential conferences; (f) sponsor student presentations in seminars and other RC events—for example, the very memorable student-writer panel discussion in the June 2002 Saybrook Residential Conference “Creative Writing” seminar.

Research Expertise

Research Expertise Rating Guide:

  1. studied in a class or have read intensively on my own
  2. special training in the form of a workshop or equivalent
  3. taught a class in, or supervised research using this method (research practicum, on a dissertation or master's committee
  4. used in research myself
  5. published or presented at conferences my research using this method

Methods Traditionally Considered As Quantitative (But Need Not Be)

Laboratory Research
Field Experiments
Randomized Controlled Clinical
Quasi-experimental methods
Correlational Methods

Methods That Could Use Quantitative Or Qualitative Methods

Action Research
Survey Research
Interview Research
Observational Research
Epidemiological Research
Focus Groups
Self-Observational Methods
Narrative Methods
Feminist Methods
Content Analysis
Discovery-Oriented (psychotherapy)
Events paradigm (psychotherapy)
Archival Research
Case History Methods
Appreciative Inquiry
Multiple Case Depth Research
Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design
Longitudinal research
Cross-sectional research

Methods Primarily Associated With Qualitative Research (But May Also Use Quantitative)

Ethnoautobiographical research
Grounded Theory
Heuristic Research

Types of Analysis

Simple Parametric Statistics (t-test, etc.)
Confidence intervals
Analysis of Variance (including MANOVA)
Analysis of Covariance
Regression (including multiple regression)
Discriminant Function Analysis
Structural Equation Modeling/Path Analysis
Causal Modeling
Cluster Analysis
Survival Analysis
Bayesian Analysis
Meta-analysis and effect sizes
Factor Analysis
Time series analysis
Multidimensional scaling