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PhotoTherapy is an interactive system of techniques that make use of people’s personal snapshots and family albums as “openers” to access feelings and memories not so easily available to solely-verbal investigations in emotional counseling and psychotherapy.
Every photograph we choose to take, keep, or respond to is in some ways a self-portrait. What a snapshot is about is often more important emotionally (and psycho-therapeutically) than what it is of.
Our ordinary personal snapshots serve as ‘mirrors with memory’, visual footprints marking where our life has been or may perhaps be going. Worked with as representational objects, symbolic self-constructs, or metaphoric transitional objects, a much deeper form of “in-sight” can emerge when photos help us bridge into the emotional life of the unconscious in ways that words alone cannot fully match.
In permanently recording these important moments, and the embedded feelings captured within them, personal photos become “bridges” for accessing, exploring, and communicating about feelings and memories (including unconscious ones), as well as related psychotherapeutic issues these evoke.
As clients begin to interact with their own personal and family photos under a therapist’s guidance, discussing what their own personally-meaningful snapshots are about, rather than just “of” visually, many associated thoughts and feelings will spontaneously emerge and thus be more available for conscious and cognitive exploration and integration.
It’s not what is shown on the surface of a photo that is so significant, but rather what these visual contents mean; the stories they tell (and related feelings precipitated) will always be quite different for every individual taking or posing for them, or viewing the results later.
Personal snapshots make visible the ongoing stories of our life, serving as visual footprints marking where we have been or may perhaps be going, leading us toward better understanding of the nonverbal components of our conscious and unconscious life.
In the hands of a therapist trained in using ‘PhotoTherapy’ techniques as helpful nonverbal/visual adjuncts within a more traditional verbal counseling style, clients’ photos also prove to be valuable representational objects, symbolic self-constructs, and metaphoric transitional objects.
*In PhotoTherapy sessions, photos are taken, viewed, posed for, actively reconstructed, worked with in memory or imagination, or even explored through interacting with ‘found’ images. It is not “just” studio work.
And since these techniques involve people’s interactions with their own uniquely personal visual constructions of reality, they can be particularly successful with people for whom verbal communication or interaction is physically restricted and/or socio-culturally limited, difficult, or situationally inappropriate ‹ thus helpful in special education, multicultural, and other complex settings.
PhotoTherapy techniques can be helpful to all therapists regardless of preferred theoretical modality or familiarity with photography itself.
I believe that my book is a good comprehensive introduction to the field, and also a good substitute for taking a workshop (as these are not offered very often now)and buying the book is a lot cheaper than registering for a workshop!)
It is: “PhotoTherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums”. This book can now be purchased directly from its Distributor “Caversham Booksellers”, whose toll-free phone number is: 1-800-361-6120 (fax: 416-944-0963) or direct from their website’s page at (website forthcoming)
In addition to clear presentation of each technique and its theoretical context from both psychology and art therapy domains (with many photo-illustrations), my book also includes case examples of each technique’s application, including actual case transcripts, as well as a series of recommended experiential exercises for readers to be able to immediately get started using these tools with their own clients.
Judy Weiser, R. Psych., A.T.R.
Director, PhotoTherapy Centre (and Occasional Instructor, B.C. School of Art Therapy)
1300 Richards Street, #205
Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6B 3G6
phone: (604) 689-9709; fax: 633-1505 (same time zone as California)