Creativity & Performing Arts Psychology

Dr. Franklin conducted years of research on performing arts psychology, creativity, and fame in preparation for her dissertation and has had a wide variety of experiences with actors throughout her life, having been born and raised in Los Angeles. Through her research, she has been offered the opportunity to audit acting classes, sit in on auditions, and interact with actors. What she has learned about being an actor comes as much from those adjunct experiences as it did from the surveys she collected from the actors who participated in her research.

Dr. Franklin enjoys working with actors and other creative professionals and has been successful in helping them unlock the doors to other parts of themselves so they can free themselves from the chains that keep them from expressing themselves fully and/or develop greater range, emotionally, artistically, and spiritually.

“Fellow actors, Dr. Jennifer Franklin is the bright, shiny light that led me out of the dark tunnel of depression and career doldrums. She is truly the best of both worlds: a therapist for you AND for “your actor.” Her extensive research on the psychology of acting, coupled with her on-going work with actors, gives her a real-world understanding and empathy for the challenges we face (frequent rejections, criticisms of our work, nervousness in the audition room, how to deal with unsupportive family and friends who don’t support our career path, etc). Simply put: she “gets” us. Dr. Franklin allowed me to see things about myself that I had never seen before, enabled me to address important issues and, finally, helped me chart a course that led me to greater professional fulfillment—my booking ratio is higher since I started seeing her—and more happiness in my personal life. Best of all: she accomplished this without prescription drugs, new-age mumbo-jumbo or eccentric religious tactics.”  –  Forrest, actor (testimonial)

Some quotes that profoundly influenced Dr. Franklin’s work with actors:

“If actors sometimes seem nervous, tense, hyperactive, eager to make a fast impression, those seem to me to be sane responses to an insane working environment.”

This comes from Brian Bates’ book The Way of the Actor, 1988, p. 60. It’s self-explanatory to anyone who works in the entertainment industry, especially to actors.

“One has to be somebody before one can be somebody else.”

This comes from Dr. Franklin’s 2003 Doctoral Dissertation entitled Breaking a Leg Without Breaking the Spirit: An Exploration of Actors’ Psychospirituality, and adapted from Engler’s 1993 article entitled “Becoming somebody and nobody: Psychoanalysis and Buddhism” in Roger Walsh’s & Frances Vaughan’s Paths Beyond Ego. The original quote is“One has to be somebody before one can be nobody.” Engler famously used this quote to address the role of what is known in psychological terms as the ego, or self, in transpersonal experiencing. It is important to have a strong ego or solid sense of self (“somebody”) before transcending ego or moving into states of consciousness that dissolve self. Likewise, for actors, knowing who you are provides the stability that allows you to immerse yourselves completely in character roles yet be able to come back “main” at the end of the day.

Current Research on Actors

Dr. Franklin is currently analyzing the qualitative data—answers to open-ended questions to which the actors were asked to write responses—from the research she conducted while writing her dissertation, completed in 2003. It was entitled “Breaking a Leg Without Breaking the Spirit: An Exploration of Actors’ Psychospirituality”. The qualitative research findings will be posted to this page upon completion.

The study explored the psychospirituality of 116 professional actors by gathering data about their emotionality, self-actualizing tendencies, and spirituality through written surveys. For the purpose of this research, “emotionality” was defined as one’s overall emotional functioning, while “spirituality” was defined as one’s overall relationship with a force or being greater than or more powerful than oneself. The concept of self-actualization, coined by Maslow (1971), describes the ongoing, lifelong process of becoming a fully functioning individual. Self-actualizing individuals constantly strive to learn, grow, and change over time (Maslow, 1971); commit themselves fully to a vocation as it represents much more than merely a way to make ends meet (Maslow, 1971); and are simultaneously committed to living life in search of such values as truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, dichotomy-transcendence, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, necessity, completion, justice, order, simplicity, richness, effortlessness, playfulness, and self-sufficiency (Maslow, 1971, p. 133). Self-actualizing individuals are also interested in realizing spiritual needs that transcend the ordinary, daily, mundane ones (Maslow, 1971). According to Maslow (1971), one part of becoming more self-actualized is having spiritual experiences, which he called peak experiences. A peak experience is a heightened emotional, spiritual experience ranging in intensity from an “absorption in anything” (p. 63) to a completely transcendent experience, wherein one experiences merging with a force larger than one’s individual self. Finally, the self-actualizing individual is secure, demonstrating full self-acceptance. One sees oneself as loveable and worthy of love.

If you would like to read obtain a copy of Dr. Franklin’s dissertation, you may do so by contacting UMI.