Therapeutic Photography: What is it?

Photo: CC0, Kaique Rocha, 2016

Art therapy is something that many people turn themselves away from simply because they believe they’re not good at art or they don’t see themselves as artists. This misconception often arises because people don’t feel comfortable with what they immediately think of as art supplies: paint, charcoal, ink…

Today almost everyone has a smart phone, which we use to take pictures every day. Most people wouldn’t think photography, especially photography on a phone could be considered art, but the technology on these small devices is becoming so advanced professional artists are using them too! Some would argue that these devices are killing the field of photography, but as always in art therapy, the objective is the process not the final outcome. With this in mind, I would like to introduce you to Therapeutic Photography.

Therapeutic Photography is the name for photo-based activities that are self-initiated and conducted by oneself (or as part of an organized group or project), but where no formal therapy is taking place and no therapist or counsellor needs to be involved.”

To begin, become comfortable with your camera of choice, whether that be a smartphone or a professional camera (digital or film). Find a place where you would like to record the moment or a feeling through picture taking and begin to capture images. Without worrying about what they look like, how you’ll edit them later or which ones you’ll include in social media (if any at all) try to maintain your focus on the action of picture taking. Enjoy your subject matter and think about why you’re choosing it. A great time to practice this can be while you’re waiting for the train to arrive or if you’re out taking a walk with your dog. Basically any time that you might be distracting yourself with your phone, use it therapeutically!

Photo Therapy is being practiced all over the world by professional and amateur artists, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and many other professions. You can either try it out on your own, in a group, through a course or with a professional. Therapeutic photography can also be practiced without a camera! Photo therapy includes picture taking, viewing, planning, discussing and even visualizing/remembering imagery. The techniques have been proven to increase self-knowledge, awareness and well-being, as well as aiding in improving relationships with family and others. (See all benefits are listed here.)

Interested in starting with your smartphone? Check out this article with tips on smartphone photography!