Today as I bring my new website to light, I wanted to address something that has been a useful modality with clients over the past several weeks in online sessions. Photos, like music, are catalysts for therapeutic communication and healing. I wanted to share this photo as I remember one of the special ways a therapy session can happen and can reflect on one’s personal journey. Not every person wants to sit and talk and the outdoors can be such a wonderful place to think!

A photo of a sandy beach with footprints leading into the distance. There are some trees in the background.

A photograph always contains a story that is different for each of us. It depends on who is translating what they see and how they relate it to their own experiences. Using photographs can be like using music in the way we feel, the mood, and especially when words alone aren’t enough to express our thoughts. The environment, in and out of context can create something very unique. For example, the photos and videos on social media feeds show large cities that now resemble ghost towns. These images have a profound effect in realizing the outcome of COVID and the ways we are all isolated. Life as we know it has changed, and we certainly get an accelerated feeling of that change when it’s accompanied with these images.

Like footprints of our lives, a snapshot shows where we have come from, both geographically and emotionally. It’s common for people in the same family to have a very different story of the same photo; our unconscious decides what we see and what we hold on to for later. There is no single truth or one view point that is right, for a photo does not “show” but only “suggests”.

On the basis of taking a photo, or looking back on a photo, it is a moment of time frozen. Even though it’s on paper, or your computer or phone, it seems alive and is also part of our present “now”. This is also like music from our past. In hearing a song from the past, you travel to the memory and apply it to the now in a reflective process. Memories and feelings are not communicated with words in a direct way but instead in a conscious way with heart and mind, sometimes a difficult process. In working in a therapeutic direction, the possibilities to re-frame that experience with caution, function and purpose is a possible way to heal and move through difficult emotional work including grief.

In working with a source of interest to motivate us through suffering or challenges, we can create our own resilience which can facilitate growth in others. Resilience is a place where more than ever we need resources to reach for. Because of the COVID-19 isolation process, and now also as Nova Scotian’s with the horrific events around the shooting, finding tangible tools is key to positive mental health. These events have left us looking for the ways we can help community but also reflect in our own thoughts.

In looking through old photos, especially with others, keep in mind you will all have different view. It might help to ask them what the image reminds them of. If you could change anything about the image, what would it be? What is missing from the image? Another way people are working through their own thoughts may be in making collages and videos that are set to music. Adding another layer of emotion in the soundtrack can create a deeper sense and awareness of feeling.

“Photographs open door into the past, but they also allow a look into the future”. – Sally Mann

Let’s continue to bring kindness and love to our families, neighbors and community as we head toward and transition to normalcy and positive days ahead.



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