Not limited to paper photographs, these techniques can be used with any kind of photographic imagery, both paper and digital, both still and moving — therefore also including applications in VideoTherapy and/or Therapeutic Videography (“Therapeutic Film-making”), digital or mobile phone photographs, DVDs, and films — as well as newer technologies yet to be invented…
In addition to the therapeutic applications listed first below, these techniques have direct relevancy also for business and commercial applications, photo-based qualitative research methodologies, social sciences (Visual Anthropology, Visual Sociology, Visual Literacy, Cross-Cultural Communication), disability awareness, rehabilitation, and Education (photographic, art criticism, special populations, and others).
However — and to clear up a common misperception — PhotoTherapy is not a “kind” of Art Therapy — and using PhotoTherapy techniques is not simply just “Art-Therapy-using-photos-as-just-one-of-several-choices-of-art-media-options”. PhotoTherapy techniques are not about photographic art or skills (the “art part” of photographs is not relevant in PhotoTherapy or Therapeutic Photography practices) — and therefore prior education or training in Art Therapy is not necessary for using them competently.
PhotoTherapy techniques can be used by any kind of trained therapist or related mental health professional, even if they have never heard of Art Therapy. While PhotoTherapy and Art Therapy both explore the deeper meanings of visual images, they do this in very different ways, and for different reasons. Click here to download a pdf that provides a deeper discussion about the differences and similarities between PhotoTherapy and Art Therapy.
However, Art Therapists can certainly learn to apply PhotoTherapy techniques within their own professional practice activities: the special additional education about deeper levels of image-exploration they receive provides benefits that those without this special training do not know how to use. This specialized use of PhotoTherapy or Therapeutic Photography techniques by trained Art Therapists is called “Photo-Art-Therapy” and is explained directly below:
Making art during therapy, using photos along with other art media, is not an integral component of ordinary PhotoTherapy practice. Instead these art-based activities are Art Therapy practices which require the skills of someone with graduate education, training, and qualifications in Art Therapy itself to know how to do this properly (and safely).
Photo-Art-Therapy techniques are when a qualified Art Therapist accomplishes additional training in using PhotoTherapy Techniques and adapts that learning to serve their Art Therapy clients with additional beneficial interventions that are not related to the “art part” of therapeutic investigation.
Therefore, while PhotoTherapy techniques are a wider professional therapeutic practice that can be done by (and taught to) any kind of mental health professional, including those who have never heard of Art Therapy before, they can be of particular benefit as additional skills to professional Art Therapy practices.
One of the key differences between Photo-Art-Therapy techniques and PhotoTherapy techniques, is that Art Therapists usually have clients create art as an essential creative-expressive component of their therapy sessions, while in PhotoTherapy sessions, art-making or adding some sort of creative artistic expressions to the use of photographs during therapy sessions does not need to happen.
In summary, PhotoTherapy practitioners need no prior education, training nor skill in the “art part” of photography — nor in any photo-art-creating, or Art Therapy skills — whereas for Photo-Art-Therapy practitioners, these things are primary, necessary, and essential components of learning to prepare for their client work.
“The combination of photographs and art work is a powerful tool for enabling and facilitating one in the ever-present challenge of living a more fulfilling life. The Photo-Art-Therapy activities are primarily visual, and many of the activities also add movement; all include discussion with a therapist, group, or partner… The creative-expressive nature of the activities is one of the most therapeutic qualities… Another advantage is… its multi-modal nature”.
VideoTherapy and Therapeutic Videography/Film-making Techniques
Videos and films are simply “moving photographic images” and therefore the underlying theory and operational rationale for using them for helping people are very much the same as those for photo-based therapy or therapeutic activities practices involving still photographs — the only difference being that the image is moving.
In considering the continuum of practices along which all earlier-described photo-based therapy/healing practices can be positioned — between using photos during therapy to help one’s clients (“PhotoTherapy”) at one end, and using them as therapeutic/healing activities for oneself or others (“Therapeutic Photography”) at the other — a parallel continuum can be constructed for comparing the similarities and differences in using video/film-based techniques to do the same:
“VideoTherapy” is when video is used during therapy sessions under the direction of a trained therapist as a way to better help their clients through providing opportunities to view how they look and sound during a therapy session.
“Therapeutic Videography” (or as it is also often called, “Therapeutic Film-making”) is when making videos or films is done for specific purpose by people for themselves, or in groups or community efforts — but where no therapist need be involved.
Note: These are not the same as “Cinema Therapy” or “Movie Therapy”, which are occasions where people get together to watch public/commercial movies and talk about them afterwards, sometimes under the guidance of a therapist and sometimes just for supportive discussions without one.
VideoTherapy (using Video during Therapy)
VideoTherapy is not just documenting therapy sessions for historical purposes; instead it involves the active use of a video camera to help capture and show all the many other-than-verbal components of the client’s communications — and therefore helping them consider the effects of these outside the therapy room.
Clients usually find that viewing themselves “live, in motion” an inarguable documentation of how they communicate and present themselves, which quickens the therapy process as they begin understand the effects of their own words and behaviours and — as a result — begin to take more responsibility for their own actions and make changes “from within” based on their own self-observations, rather than deniable input from others.
VideoTherapy techniques provide numerous opportunities for self-discovery and self-confrontation, direct access to emotions, affect, and other non-verbal messages, and study of family or group structure and interactions otherwise unavailable in direct verbal-only sessions with clients. The impact of seeing such things directly for themselves is often easier to accept — and also usually less threatening, especially for those whose self-concept is so weak as to be unable to handle critical feedback at that time.
Videotape techniques can also greatly enhance clients’ ability to document for themselves their own growth and change process during their therapy process, whether re-viewing the recording immediately during the same session, delayed until following sessions later, or in long-range comparisons over many months.
VideoTherapy replay can happen immediately during the same session to review what has just happened, delayed for clients to review at home before the next session or used in subsequent sessions, or even long-range applications to study client change over a long period of time (for example, noting improvements since the first therapy session):
And finally, some of the most creative uses of videotaping during therapy come when they are used in active combination with PhotoTherapy techniques. Any therapist properly trained in using VideoTherapy techniques will know how and when to combine the different techniques for best results — and if also trained in using PhotoTherapy techniques, they can produce a wonderful synergistic process for the client.
| More information about VideoTherapy, coming soon. |
Therapeutic Videography (making Videos/Films as Therapy)
Whether done individually or as a group, making videos or films can be much more than simply an artistic or self-exploratory practice. Created with an intentional plan and clear goals for the outcome, these “visual narratives with a purpose” can be a personal statement of identity, increase understanding or encourage positive changes in others, or even change society or the world in general by filming something that needs to receive serious attention.
Regardless of the purpose of making such films, and in addition to learning camera and editing skills, there are also many beneficial effects on those involved in such projects: Participants often gain increased self-esteem from their creative accomplishments, additional self-confidence through telling stories never before told, and finding ways to have others learn their message from watching the films later. These films frequently serve as a bridge to join the film-maker to others whose understanding and resulting support helps carry their cause even further.
The goals of Therapeutic Film-making projects are very similar to those of Therapeutic Photography, some for individual private exploration with no-one else viewing them later; some created for others to view and learn things not able to be said in words; some created by intentionally formed groups with a common experience or message to convey; while some are part of Social Action Photography projects: that use video/film-making (whether or not combined with still photography activities) — all with the purpose of creating positive change in society itself.
While usually not assigned as part of any specific therapeutic purposes, the making and sharing of videos and films created in such non-therapy (yet very “therapeutic/healing”) settings can nevertheless also produce a lot of personal insights and provide a lot of very useful information about the life of their creators if shared with their therapist (if they happen to also be actively involved in therapy at that time).
Therapists can also encourage clients to create their own personal films or video-narratives as part of their treatment plan — much the same as they might suggest the taking of still photos for similar goals and reasons…
| More information about Therapeutic Videography, coming soon. |
Photo-based Qualitative Research Methodologies
With this century’s increasing availability and user-friendliness of photographic, film, and digital technologies, newer visual methods have brought improvements to the quality of research conducted in ethnographic, sociological, anthropological, and academic fields.
Studies by Visual Sociologists, Visual Anthropologists, and others interested in learning more about people — and their cultures and societies — have moved away from science-based empirical research models to more flexible methodologies that permit people to become informants about their own lives and cultures through sharing and discussing photographic images that they themselves create for narrating these.
What does this have to do with PhotoTherapy and Therapeutic Photography? While obviously research is not therapy, PhotoTherapy and Therapeutic Photography techniques that help individuals or social groups heal — by finding out more about themselves through exploring the deeper aspects of photos they take, keep, and later talk about — can also provide a helpful parallel model that helps researchers build and use photo-based methodologies to investigate people, cultures, and communities “from the inside”.
The newer visual research methodologies succeed for the same reasons that PhotoTherapy and Therapeutic Photography techniques succeed: using people’s own photos (and their interactions with these) can produce additional valuable information about their lives — and their core values, deep metaphors, value-based belief systems, and “differences that make a difference” in their own world-view — than words alone ever could.
And the more that research moves into visual/photographic qualitative methods (single-case narratives, structured photo-elicitation techniques, participant-informant frameworks, PhotoVoice, and many others) — the more it will produce beneficial results based upon the simple fact that it is possible to learn a lot about people while they share the stories told, feelings evoked, and memories triggered while they themselves think they are talking only about the visual details appearing on the surface of a photograph.
Commercial or Business Applications
Photo-based therapy techniques that help people achieve desired personal changes can also contribute many useful benefits in business and commercial applications (photographers, marketers, illustrators, advertisers, web-designers, product promoters, and so forth).
Photographs are used world-wide to help communicate brand messages and market products and services through careful consideration of many different factors that could affect potential customers’ purchases and brand loyalty. Advertisers hope that viewers will identify with the people portrayed in their ads and thus want to emulate that lifestyle by purchasing the products and experiences they illustrate — in other words, want to buy the products being advertised due to increased perceived need.
Advertisers and marketers usually base their assumptions that the reaction to a photograph can be predicted in advance — and will therefore have identical effects on all viewers — and thus that certain photographic or video/film images will predictably create a particular reaction (and desire) when customers see them.
But: are your customers getting what you hoped they would get when viewing your advertising photos, videos, and designs? Do they see your company’s LinkedIn image or Facebook banner the same way you wanted them to, when you selected it? Considering the information in previous webpages, you might begin to realize that customers’ responses to photos you show them are not as dependable or predictable as you might expect…
Judy Weiser is considered the world expert in how photographs communicate meaning nonverbally (directly to the viewer’s unconscious) and create unique reactions as a result. Therefore, she can help companies explore the emotional consequences of using photos to represent their products and brands.
With her insights based on the psychological information gleaned from over three decades of using photos to help people make desired changes, she can help you find better means of encouraging customers to buy – and, more importantly, become brand-loyal to – your products and services.
Judy has served as a paid consultant for a variety of companies in the past, including Kodak (twice), Tamooz International Marketing, Venture Photographic Portraits UK, and Polaroid – as well as several “Therapeutic Scrapbooking” companies – and her “Photo-Projectives PhotoTherapy technique” was adapted many years ago for focus-group uses by Harvard Business School Professor, Gerald Zaltman (his “Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (Z-Met)” methodology.