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Summary of this Website,  
in Languages other than Engish


... about the "why" of your photographs
and the feelings and stories they create...

"Photographs are footprints of our minds, mirrors of our lives, reflections from our hearts, frozen memories that we can hold in silent stillness in our hands -- forever if we wish. They document not only where we have been, but also point the way to where we might perhaps be heading, whether or not we realize this yet ourselves..."  -- Judy Weiser, R.Psych., A.T.R, Founder/Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre

The Secret Lives of Personal Snapshots and Family Photographs

      Every snapshot a person takes or keeps is also a type of self-portrait, a kind of "mirror with memory" reflecting back those moments and people that were special enough to be frozen in time forever. Collectively, these photos make visible the ongoing stories of that person's life, serving as visual footprints marking where they have been (emotionally, as well as physically) and also perhaps signaling where they might next be heading. Even people's reactions to postcards, magazine pictures, online images, or snapshots taken by others can provide illuminating clues to their own inner life and its secrets.

     The actual meaning of any photograph lies less in its visual facts and more in what these details evoke inside the mind (and heart) of each viewer -- including the person who took it or who appears in it. While looking at a snapshot, people actually spontaneously create the meaning that they think is coming from that photo itself, and this may or may not be the meaning that the photographer originally intended to convey. Thus, its meaning (and emotional "message") is dependent upon who is doing the looking, because people's perceptions and unique life experiences automatically frame and define what they see as being real. Therefore, people's reactions to photographs they feel are special can actually reveal a lot about themselves, if only the right kinds of questions are asked.

How Therapists Use Photos to Help People Heal

      Most people keep photographs around, without ever pausing to really think about why. But, because personal snapshots permanently record important daily moments (and the associated emotions unconsciously embedded within these), they can serve as natural bridges for accessing, exploring, and communicating about feelings and memories (including deeply-buried or long-forgotten ones), along with any psychotherapeutic issues these bring to light. Therapists find that their clients' photos frequently serve as tangible symbolic self-constructs and metaphoric transitional objects that silently offer inner "in-sight" in ways that words alone cannot as fully represent or deconstruct.

      Under the guidance of a therapist who has been trained in PhotoTherapy techniques, clients explore what their own personally meaningful snapshots and family albums are about emotionally, in addition to what they are of visually. Such information is latent in all personal photos, but when it can be used to focus and precipitate therapeutic dialogue, a more direct and less censored connection with the unconscious will usually result.

       During PhotoTherapy sessions, photos are not just passively reflected upon in silent contemplation, but also actively created, posed for, talked with, listened to, reconstructed, revised to form or illustrate new narratives, collected on assignment, re-visualized in memory or imagination, integrated into art therapy creative expressions, or even set into animated dialogue with other photos. This allows clients to better reach, understand, and express parts of themselves in ways that were previously not possible.

PhotoTherapy -- The Bigger Picture

       As explained in the book, PhotoTherapy Techniques -- Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums, PhotoTherapy is best viewed as an interrelated system of photo-based counseling techniques used by trained mental health professionals as part of their therapeutic practice while helping clients consciously probe, and subsequently cognitively reintegrate, their photo-precipitated insights in order to better understand and improve their life.

       Therefore, it is not the same thing as "Therapeutic Photography" (which is sometimes also confusingly called "Photo-Therapy", particularly in the U.K.), as those are self-conducted activities done outside any formal counseling context. People use Therapeutic Photography for their own personal self-discovery or artistic statement purposes, whereas therapists use PhotoTherapy to assist other people (their clients) who need help with their problems. While the results of doing photo-based self-exploration (photography-as-therapy; i.e., photography used for personal insight purposes, but with no therapist involved or guiding the process) often ends up being serendipitously "therapeutic" on its own -- especially when using the camera as an agent of personal or social change -- this is not the same as activating and processing such experiences while under the guidance and care of a trained counseling professional (photography-in-therapy; i.e., using photos and people's interactions with them, during the therapy process, as an integral part of it).

       Since PhotoTherapy is a collection of flexible techniques, rather than fixed directives based upon only one specific theoretical modality or therapeutic paradigm, it can be used by any kind of trained counselor or therapist, regardless of their conceptual orientation or preferred professional approach. This is one of the many ways that PhotoTherapy is both similar to, yet distinct from, Art Therapy -- as well as the reason it can be used so successfully by a variety of other mental health professionals who are not trained in Art Therapy specifically. (Those who do have special additional training in Art Therapy, use a sub-set of PhotoTherapy techniques called "Photo-Art-Therapy).

       The specific definitions for PhotoTherapy, Therapeutic Photography, and Photo Art Therapy are shown on the "Entry page" of this website; however these are repeated below for readers who did not enter this site from that first page:

    PhotoTherapy techniques  are therapy practices that use people's personal snapshots, family albums, and pictures taken by others (and the feelings, thoughts, memories, and associations these photos evoke) as catalysts to deepen insight and enhance communication during their therapy or counseling  sessions (conducted by trained mental health professionals), in ways not possible using words alone.

(Photo-Art-Therapy techniques are therapy practices based on a specialized adaptation of PhotoTherapy techniques done only by professional Art Therapists who have had additional training in using imagery during their own "art-during-therapy" interventions) -- while the use of photo-art interactive activities by Art Therapists using the "art-as-therapy" model instead (similar to "Therapeutic Photography" techniques below) is named "Therapeutic Photo-Art-Making Activities").

     Therapeutic Photography techniques are photographic practices done by people themselves (or their helpers) in situations where the skills of a trained therapist or counselor are not needed -- for example, where photo-interactive activities are used to increase people's own self-knowledge and awareness, improve family and other relationships, activate positive social change, lessen social exclusion, assist rehabilitation, strengthen communities, deepen intercultural relations, reduce conflict, bring attention to issues of social injustice, sharpen visual literacy skills, enhance education, promote well-being, expand qualitative research and prevention methodologies, and produce other kinds of photo-based personal/emotional healing and learning.

       Since PhotoTherapy is about photography-as-communication, rather than photography-as-art, NO prior experience with cameras or the photographic arts is necessary for effective therapeutic application!

     And finally, since PhotoTherapy involves people interacting with their own unique visual constructions of reality (using photography more as an activating verb than as a passive/reflective noun), these techniques can be particularly successful with people for whom verbal communication is physically, mentally, or emotionally limited, socio-culturally marginalized, or situationally-inappropriate due to misunderstanding of nonverbal cues.

       Therefore PhotoTherapy can be especially helpful, and usually very empowering, in applications with multicultural, disabled, minority-gender, special-needs, and other similarly-complex or marginalized populations -- as well as beneficial in diversity training, conflict resolution, divorce mediation, and other related fields.

       As the general public becomes increasingly comfortable with using electronic technology and digital imagery, more exciting possibilities continue to emerge for using photos as counseling tools with clients who have scanners, digital cameras, photo-manipulation software, family websites, and/or those who are able to participate in online cyber-therapy.

       • Please explore this site further to learn more about how Photo Therapy can help people get a better picture of their life -- one that is worth far more than the proverbial thousand words!

To hear a brief "live" radio interview with Judy Weiser (Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre), about how people can use these techniques to learn more aobut themselves and their lives, click here.

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       You are encouraged to get in touch with the PhotoTherapy Centre with your questions or requests for more information or training -- and also to recommend additional publications or links, contribute your own reviews of the PhotoTherapy book, add your own paragraph about yourself and your work to the "Who is Doing What, Where" page, share your own photo-anecdotes, or send any other kind of feedback to this site or add news or networking suggestions to its interactive "PhotoTherapy Discussion Group".  Your communication is welcomed!

ALSO, please see (and join) the Facebook Group for:
"PhotoTherapy, Therapeutic Photography, Photo Art Therapy, and VideoTherapy"



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Site © Copyright Judy Weiser 2001-2014; All Rights Reserved: All material on this site (text, photos, and artwork) is owned or licensed by Judy Weiser and may not be reproduced without her express written permission. Brief text quotations (under fifty words) for non-commercial purposes only, are permitted providing that full proper credit and citation accompanies them -- while any other use or reproduction of text, photos, or artwork without her written permission will be treated as plagiarism and copyright infringement. Statements on this website do not constitute professional advice, and visitors are urged to contact their own professional advisors. Material on this website may be out of date or incomplete, and no representation is made as to accuracy or appropriateness. Some links on this website direct the visitor to websites controlled by others, and any responsibility for such other sites is specifically disclaimed.

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