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What a selfie says about you

In my work which has been primarily verbal, I’ve come (albeit slowly) to the realization that words can fail us. Words and speech can oftentimes be used as defense mechanisms in portraying our underlying motives, feelings, and thoughts. In my recent discovery of PhotoTherapy (i.e. the use of photographs in therapy), I can attest to the power of imagery, projection, and symbolic representations (oftentimes unconscious) found in photographs.

Photography (pictures taken by the client or by someone else), like other forms of artwork, has the ability to tap into a person’s inner self by bypassing many built-in psychological defenses. By having people look, take, or comment about pictures that resonate with them, we can unearth a new emotional landscape that is barely perceptible to the individual.

More specifically, in PhotoTherapy clinicians can guide clients to healing, self-understanding, and awareness by bringing photography into the sessions. In the book, PhotoTherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums, psychologist Judy Weiser shows in detail how photography from the simple smartphone “selfie” to an elaborate, digitally-altered image can reveal a rich mosaic of hidden associations, memories, events, aspirations, and clues to one’s self and life journey.

Photography in and of itself is not merely capturing a factual event in time. There are meanings, motives, and emotions behind the image captured and the one taking the pictures. Furthermore, the interpretation of photographs (especially abstract ones) drives this point home. In the book Weiser gives a number of clinical examples that show how the non-verbal symbolism in photography is not only less intimidating than traditional talk therapy, but also how vital information is culled from PhotoTherapy that may not occur in verbal therapy due to the spontaneous and non-threatening nature of using photography as a means of communication.

This example illustrates the powerful use of symbolic representation found in photography. This is one example but others include how self-portraits, family pictures, or pictures people take can offer glimpses to their inner world. Obviously, PhotoTherapy is just one means of taking a non-verbal art form and using it as a medium towards self-discovery. I’ve worked with other clients who preferred to draw, recite poetry, or role-play in the session. No one method works best but in an age where smartphones and "selfies" reign, why not capture the moment?

(Photos courtesy of Pixabay free photos)

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