Since I am receiving numerous inquiries (that I keep answering individually) about how PhotoTherapy as done in North America contrasts with the practice that is called the same thing in the U.K. by many photographers doing "live" studio reconstructive and photographic investigation into personal issues, I thought the Newsgroup might benefit from a similar kind of explanation: --- The way I envision PhotoTherapy may be a bit different from the version commonly used to in the U.K. By "different" I mean just that -- a different way to use photography in healing and counselling -- not "right" or "wrong" compared with another way, just solely "different".
"PhotoTherapy" is used/defined in North America differently than the way pioneering "phototherapists" in the U.K. (such as Jo Spence and Rosy Martin) have done it.
The way I and my colleagues (for example, Krauss) have pioneered it in North America, it has little to do with contemporary art or art-photography practice, as it is not for the purpose of art or self-discovery apart from a therapeutic process, but rather as a set of techniques to be used for explanation within therapeutic practice (much more about this below).
I stress this because there is a whole group of exciting people and their work over in the U.K. (based a lot on what Jo (and Rosy) started and Rosy and others are still doing (with good results) who are calling their work "Phototherapy", while over here in North America what they do would be viewed more as doing "therapeutic photography", which doesn't require any training in the counselling profession but is based more on the work itself being therapeutic (sort of the "art-as-therapy" contrasted with the "art-in-therapy" field).
This has both benefits and limitations, but this kind of work in and of itself is just the beginning of the kind of thing I envision PhotoTherapy's potential as being open to.
Their work, though not specifically therapy oriented in its strictest definition, is still very relevant for therapeutic photography. Jo and I spent many hours (and many pages of deep correspondence about this), seeing ourselves not as opposites, but neither were we identical in how we envisioned PhotoTherapeutic process, purpose, or even depth.
WHAT IS PHOTOTHERAPY?
"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.
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 or photo-taking/posing 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" (publisher: Jossey-Bass of San Francisco). I sell it from here at half-price, for $29.95 Canadian ($24.95 U.S.), plus $4.50 shipping and handling, and $24.95 Canadian ($19.95 U.S.) for students (send photocopy of student I.D.), plus $4.50 shipping and handling.
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.
NOW, to compare the differences between my kind of PhotoTherapy and Jo's (who was a very close friend of mine, by the way -- we were not adversaries, nor territorial about our "ways" of PhotoTherapy, but only wishing we could work more closely together, her doing the first part and then me picking up the more therapeutic parts after):
It seems that, both from what I've witnessed from colleagues and numerous graduate students in the U.K. that there is much more of a blur and blending over there between what is "therapeutic art" and actual "art therapy".
To me there's a world of difference and yet many people seem not to notice any difference at all.
There is a similar lack of differentiation amongst many people (especially students, I've discovered) regarding "therapeutic photography" and "photo therapy". Jo and Rosy and I have discussed this at length, not to prove one was more valuable than the other but rather to note our "differences which make a difference" and use these to our mutual advantage.
But certainly their (and I think possibly also your) version of PhotoTherapy isn't identical to mine.
For me, in order for therapy to happen there has to be insight and catharsis, yes, but these on their own are not enough for there to be "therapy" happening. Personal growth? yes. New insights? yes. Possible emotional reactions? yes. Is this, by itself, therapy (in my opinion)? NO.
Without there being a "guide" who will assist the person in putting this all into a cognitive/conscious framework with which to later be able to recall it and contine to integrate new details as they arise or are perceived, no therapy is happening -- only "personal process". Which is itself strongly powerful, but it's not therapy the way therapy is viewed over here).
It's like taking a nature-walk in the woods, which on its own can be wonderful, but without a guide to explain how all the things you are seeing interrelate with one another and fit the bigger schema of nature, you won't likely learn as much or appreciate the finer details that you otherwise might miss. But you still may get a lot out of the walk, including in many deep nonverbal / unconscious ways, that touch you deeply and give you insight now and later in looking back at it all. But this isn't "therapy" (the North American way).
It's not that one is better or more valuable than the other, or that one is "right" and the other "wrong, but rather that they are not the same thing and over here in North America that makes a big difference in the field of therapeutic practice and also in training students to become therapists using various techniques for helping people. so, there you are -- hope all this rambling helps to give you "a better picture".
If you are interested in the "Jo-and-Rosy" kind of PhotoTherapy, o let me also assist you with a brief bibliography of their most relevant works (below),
and also suggest that you contact Rosy Martin directly (her Email: email@example.com ),
and also Terry Dennett (a close colleague who Jo left her archives to) Email: T.Dennett@ucl.ac.uk
Spence, Jo. (1978). Facing up to myself. Spare Rib, 68, 6-9.
Spence, Jo. (1980). What did you do in the war, mummy? class and gender in the images of women. In: Dennett, Terry; Evans, David; Gohl, Sylvia; & Spence, Jo (Eds.), Photography/Politics: One (pp. 2-10). London: Photography Workshop.
Spence, Jo. (1983). War photos: The home front. Unpublished Thesis Chapter, 212-247.
Spence, Jo. (1984). Public images/private functions; Reflections on High Street practice. Ten-8/ (Face Values), 13, 7-17.
Spence, Jo. (1986a). Photo therapy. Venue, 14: 101, 48-49.
Spence, Jo. (1986b). Putting Myself in the Picture: A Political Personal and Photographic Autobiography. London: Camden Press.
Spence, Jo. (1989). Disrupting the silence: the daughter's story. Women Artists Slide Library Journal, 29: June, 14-17.
Spence, Jo. (1990). Personal communication. June 13.
Spence, Jo. (1991). Soap, family album work, and hope. In: Spence, Jo, and Holland, Patricia (Eds.), Family snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography (pp 20-207). London: Virago Press.
Spence, Jo. (1995). Cultural sniping The art of transgression. London: Routledge.
Spence, Jo, and Solomon, Joan. (1995). What can a woman do with a camera? London: Scarlet Press.
> ROSY MARTIN:
Martin, Rosy. (1987). Phototherapy: The school photo (Happy days are here again). In: Holland, Patricia; Spence, Jo; and Watney, Simon (Eds.), Photography/Politics: Two (pp. 40-42). London: Commedia/Photography Workshop.
Martin, Rosy. (1990a). Dirty linen: Photo therapy, memory, and identity. Ten:8, 37, 1-10.
Martin, Rosy. (1990b). The 'pretended family' album. Feminist Art News, 3:5, 22-24.
Martin, Rosy. (1990c). How does the lesbian gaze. Outlook, Autumn/Winter, ??.
Martin, Rosy. (1991a). Unwind the ties that bind. In: Spence, Jo, and Holland, Patricia (Eds.), Family snaps: Meanings of Domestic Photography (pp. 209-221). London: Virago Press.
Martin, Rosy. (1991b). Don't say cheese, say lesbian. In: Jean Fraser and Tessa Boffin (Eds.), Stolen Glances Lesbians Take Photographs (pp. xx-xx). London: Pandora.
Martin, Rosy, and Spence, Jo. (1985). New portraits for old: The use of the camera in therapy. Feminist Review, 19, 66-92.
Martin, Rosy, and Spence, Jo. (1986). Photo therapy: New portraits for old, 1984 onwards. In: Jo Spence, Putting Myself in the Picture: A Political Personal and Photographic Autobiography (pp. 172-193). London: Camden Press.
Martin, Rosy, and Spence, Jo. (1987). New portraits for old: The use of the camera in therapy. In: Betterton, Rosemary (Ed.), Looking On: Images of Feminity in the Visual Arts and Media (pp. 267-279). London: Pandora. Judy Weiser PhotoTherapy publications:
1993 PHOTOTHERAPY TECHNIQUES THE SECRET LIVES OF PERSONAL SNAPSHOTS AND FAMILY ALBUMS. Previously: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; Currently: Vancouver: PhotoTherapy Centre.
--- 1990 "More than meets the eye" Using ordinary snapshots as tools for therapy. In: Laidlaw, T.; Malmo, C.; & Associates (Eds.), Healing voices: Feminist approaches to therapy with women (pp. 83-117). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass*. (*book available from Weiser, not publisher)
1988(a) "See what I mean?" Photography as nonverbal communication in cross-cultural psychology. In: Poyatos, F.(Ed.), Cross-cultural perspectives in nonverbal communication (pp. 245-290). Toronto: Hogrefe.
1988(b) PhotoTherapy: Using snapshots and photo-interactions in therapy with youth. In: Schaefer, C. (Ed.), Innovative interventions in child and adolescent therapy (pp. 339-376). New York: Wiley.
1983 Using photographs in therapy with people who are 'different'. In: Krauss, D. A. and Fryrear, J. L. (Eds.), Phototherapy in mental health (pp. 174-199). Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.
Feel free to contact me for further information, Judy Weiser -- JWeiser@istar.ca phone/fax: (604) 689-9709
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